Tag Archives: Jim Broadbent

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.

 

 

FILM REVIEW: Bridget Jones’s Baby

Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) is having a baby, and there are two potential fathers. Bridget is getting older, and the world, to Bridget, appears to be getting younger.

What a ‘to-do!’

If I’m perfectly honest with myself, Bridget Jones’s Baby, the third film in the franchise, would rank somewhere near the bottom of a ‘must see films of the year’ list. There will doubtless be very few shocked by that particular revelation. It is after all a film that’s unapologetically geared towards a predominantly female audience of a certain age.

There’s nothing wrong with that. Such films serve as a good counterbalance to the plethora of God-awful, tiresome action films that relentlessly clog up cineplexes, nationwide. If the truth be told, I normally make a point of avoiding both.

There is however no escaping it, Bridget Jones’s Baby is a film that’s based upon the original book and concept of a female author. It’s directed by a woman and it’s packed solid with women’s ‘humour’ which, going by the cacophony of shrieks, howls and giggles emanating from all around about me in the particular screening that I attended, was blisteringly funny, to say the least.

Only… it wasn’t. Not to me anyway.

I’m being a little harsh, although I will say that the opening fifteen or twenty minutes, in which we are re-introduced to Bridget and her by now forty-something existence, and the struggles she faces to remain relevant within the hip TV and media circles in which she still operates, did make me want to bleach my eyes, ears and senses in general. A reaction no doubt to the onslaught of sickeningly slick, sassy one-liners, a largely toe-curling script, and some rather blatantly obvious visual gags.

However – and it’s a big however – once Bridget Jones’s Baby settles down, stops waving its arms around in that excruciating ‘Me, Me, Me!’ fashion, in an attempt to make its mark and get itself noticed – essentially, once it’s stopped being quite so nauseatingly Sex and The City, and become a little more Four Weddings meets Love Actually – a rather memorable little feel-good film threatens to emerge. And not a moment too soon.

It helps that a who’s who of British film, drama and television comedy accounts for the lion’s share of the film’s cast.

Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent add weight (not literally), to proceedings, as Bridget’s parents, and a very special mention to the always superb, Emma Thompson, who once again defies the brevity of her bit-part role, to just about steal the show.

Colin Firth, rehashes his role as Mark, the tall, silent and slightly repressed English gent, whilst Patrick Dempsey plays Jack – Mark’s polar opposite – an emotionally open, slick American charmer, who has achieved considerable fame in championing the use of algorithms as a way to aid in the match-making process.

Sometimes together, and at other times independently, the pair do their best to vie for Bridget’s attentions through all manner of scrapes and tricky scenarios; each of them hopeful that Bridget’s baby-to-come, will ultimately prove to be theirs.

Bridget Jones’s Baby is a Londoner’s ‘spot the location’ dream, with various famous locations and landmarks springing up, doctored as they are – at times almost out of all recognition – for the benefit of the imaginations of the ‘Hollywood market’, but it doesn’t matter. It’s all good fun.

Perhaps more surprising than anything though is the fact that Bridget Jones’s Baby somehow manages to turn a decidedly shaky start – in my humble opinion, if no-one else’s – into a fully fledged, thoroughly convincing feel-good film that ultimately leaves an overwhelming impression of being, on balance at least, both emotionally engaging and rather amusing, in equal measures.

And who’d have thought that?

 

 

FILM REVIEW: Brooklyn

 

Moving from Ireland to New York, Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), is in search of a better life.

Her opportunities in a small town on the Emerald Isle are limited to say the least and despite the wrench of leaving behind her mother and in particular her sister, Rose, it seems the right thing to do and the right time to do it.

That’s not to say that Eilis is in any way confident or ready to grab the bull of opportunity by the horns. She isn’t.

It will prove to be an unwelcome introduction to the joys of both extended sea and home sickness, leaving her in much doubt as to the wisdom of her actions.

As with most things in life though, time proves to be the all important ingredient and on settling in at Mrs Kehoe’s Irish boarding house, securing employment, enrolling on a book-keeping course thanks to the kindly Father Flood, (Jim Broadbent), and most importantly of all, making the acquaintance of a charming young Italian/American lad by the name of Tony (Emory Cohen), her American experience improves immeasurably.

Happiness flows freely from here for Eilis.

Nothing lasts forever of course and on receiving some sad news from home, Eilis agrees to return to Ireland for a short break, unprepared for the life that now awaits her there and  for the difficult choices that she must now make.

Brooklyn is a very charming film on a number of levels particularly the  collective performances which are natural and believable whilst being genuinely amusing, soulful and poignant; effortlessly drawing empathy from the viewer.

Julie Walters’ role as the matronly Mrs Kehoe, is a particular highlight; offering her worldly wisdom at meal times to the amusement of the collection of young ladies that inhabit her boarding house. An excellent piece of casting if ever there was one.

In many ways, Brooklyn tips its hat to the age old adage that ‘home is where the heart is’ – although this shouldn’t lead one into a false sense of expectation, for as much as Brooklyn hints at being a conventional love story, if you’re expecting everything to be tied up neatly with a pretty bow, think again. That premise is ultimately a little wide of the mark.

What we can be sure about though is that Brooklyn is a very well realised and above all very likeable film.

It’s visually sumptuous with its soft, pastel colours reflecting the palette of the time, conjuring up an almost dreamy, ethereal quality to what ultimately is a lovely, warm-hearted slice of cinematic escapism.

Highly recommended

Incidentally, is it just me or did Emory Cohen remind anyone else of 1980s slippery brat-pack star, Andrew McCarthy? Everything from the look to the mannerisms.

Is there anything you’d like to tell us Mr McCarthy?

 

 

 

FILM REVIEW: The Lady In The Van

 

The Lady In The Van (TLITV) is a film adaptation of Alan Bennett’s 1999 stage play of the same name, chronicling an event which went on to form a sizeable chunk of the writer’s life.
We are informed that it is, by and large, a true story with only slight embellishments.
The film’s opening sequence makes it clear that ‘Mary’ has been involved in a driving incident of some sort and fearful of the consequences of her involvement, is now running from the law.
Jim Broadbent – here conjuring up memories of Chief Inspector Roy Slater of Only Fools and Horses fame – is an occasional presence throughout as now retired but still wily and rather unethical, officer Underwood, a man who simply can’t let an unresolved case lie.
Fast forward a little: Mary, now an older and rather eccentric lady, emerges one day on a leafy street in inner London, driving a clapped out old van, replete with a still shattered windscreen, a casualty of the long since past, but not forgotten incident.
Parked at ever changing slots alongside the street kerb, the residents are all suitably sympathetic to her plight until that is, her wheels roll up outside their driveways!
What will the neighbours think, indeed…?!
More to the point, just what is Mary’s (or should that be, Margaret’s) real story and why is this dishevelled little old lady hiding out here on a leafy, 1970s Camden side road?
On lending a hand with her van one day, unwittingly, Alan Bennett begins the perplexing and at times arduous process of finding out; committing himself in the process to a ‘friendship’ with Mary, of a duration and peculiarity that he could only ever have imagined, or perhaps written about.
Maggie Smith plays Mary, and is evidently an actress still at the very peak of her powers, with a performance of genuinely great depth and conviction. Hers is a mesmerising portrayal of this mysterious and stubborn old boot.
Interestingly, Bennett – played here in understated fashion by Alex Jennings – is portrayed visually as a man of two halves, both of whom are in frequent, almost playful disagreement with one another. One Bennett lives his day-to-day, apparently unexceptional existence, the other, the creative ‘writer’ Bennett toils away at a typewriter by the window, in full view of Mary’s van, which is by now parked on his driveway, such are her persuasive powers. It and Mary herself have also by now become the focal point of his writing.
Fifteen years or so hosting a driveway lodger inevitably produces its ups and downs, not to mention a wealth of writing material as slowly, Mary’s remarkable story and her true identity for that matter, are revealed.
Interestingly, Mary is not painted as some great cathartic presence in Bennett’s life, or even somebody from whom he acquires some great insight or self-realisation. Indeed, Bennett at times just about tolerates her trying presence and the catalogue of annoyances that go along with it. It is however an unassuming friendship based more upon tolerance and empathy than any great telepathic understanding or deep rooted connection between them. Somehow though, it’s an arrangement that suits them both.
It’s a bitter-sweet and beautifully considered work from Director Nicholas Hytner, combining both the tender and heart warming, with the genuinely amusing.
Even a potentially misjudged Terry Gilliam-esque scene at the film’s finalé seems not to detract from TLITV‘s core message and sentiment,
providing in fact a somehow fitting, upbeat and joyous conclusion.
Genuinely wonderful stuff.