A curious little thing this. Written and directed by Alnoor Dewshi, 77 Beds features Ben Whishaw as Ismael, a young man having problems sleeping who decides to count things to try and get to the land of nod. But instead of sheep, he counts the number of beds he has slept in, and so follows a kind of patchwork personal history, snippets of his life, his friends, his family, appear in brief recollections of significant events and the beds that accompanied them. It’s intriguing but never really develops into something compelling, though it is always good to see Ben Whishaw, his angular youth a powerful central presence.
This Tom Edmunds film has an excellent premise and a good cast to carry it out, yet stumbles a little bit through an overindulgent running time. Olivia Hallinan’s Suzy has reached a turning point in her relationship with Russell Tovey’s Tim as he just won’t take things seriously. Trouble is though, Tim’s life literally is a joke, all around him are the living embodiments of gags and anecdotes and puns and it’s all out of his control so it is kinda hard for him to stop. And that’s pretty much it – Edmunds has to be commended for the number of jokes he manages to crowbar into Is This A Joke? but at the same time, there’s too many of them and certainly not all are in service of the narrative, meaning that the overall film does feel bloated. Tovey is good as his usual everyman character and Jarred Christmas makes a great deadpan companion.
Unfortunately this is only a snippet of what is a rather excellent dark fairytale featuring an early performance from that most uniquely-visaged actor Tom Brooke. Laura Lamson’s story might as well be straight out of the Grimm compendium – a grumpy young girl curses her chirpy little brother for being so happy, little knowing that The Happiness Thief is lying in wait to suck up all his bonhomie. It is almost Tim Burton-esque in feel and look, Derek Boyes directing with just the right level of creepy whimsy as she chases him onto the rooftops of the city to right her wrong. Worth tracking down if you can.
If you don’t know who Fanny Ardant is, then I pity you. For me, she is the epitome of French glamour – in François Ozon’s brilliant musical film 8 Femmes, it is surely her, not Catherine Deneuve, who captures the attention of any red-blooded male with her luscious looks and honey-deep voice and heaven knows, I’d probably turn for a night, hehe. Chimères Absentes is an Italian film she directed back in 2010 and so you get the unrivalled joy of her speaking Italian as a haunting tale of discrimination against the Roma people and the attempts of one music teacher – Ardant herself – to tries to break down the social and cultural boundaries.