Film Review: Cordelia (2019)

Antonia Campbell-Hughes and Johnny Flynn lead psychological thriller Cordelia through its uneasy relationship with reality

“You’re tortured by guilt”

There’s a lot of double duty going on in Cordelia, with writers Antonia Campbell-Hughes and Adrian Shergold also taking on the roles of leading actor and director respectively. Not only that, Campbell-Hughes plays twin sisters Cordelia and Caroline in a quirkily, dark movie that lurks somewhere close to psychological horror. Rather randomly, it also marks the debut of Sally Hawkins as an executive producer. 

After a traumatic event some 12 years ago, Cordelia has retreated from the world. A RADA-trained actress, she has now scored a part in the company of a production of King Lear at the Donmar and so can no longer remain holed up in the basement flat she shares with her sister in London. Over the course of a weekend when Caroline is away, Cordelia’s dalliances with the outside world are shaped, for better or worse, by her growing connection with the handsome cellist who lives upstairs. Continue reading “Film Review: Cordelia (2019)”

Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 8

With major fluctuations in the force, Series 8 maintains a strong level for Spooks – you could argue it should have stopped here

“They think you’ve got Harry Pearce in the palm of you hand and you’re making moves”

 

Finally, after too many years of yoyo-ing between good series bad series, Spooks finally put together two strong instalments back to back. I think the shorter run (8 episodes) really does focus the writing which now goes all-in on the serial plot line running through the whole series, yet still finding time to blend in self-contained storylines here and there.

Big betrayals cut deep, harsh on a team barely recovered from Connie’s recent deception. Personnel changes rock the team equally hard, as Malcolm is (metaphorically) sacrificed to bring back Ruth, Jo is (literally) sacrificed for big business and Ros (understandably) goes in hard for Tobias Menzies. And Richard Armitage’s Lucas North gets his arse out – quality TV all round. Should Spooks have gone out all guns blazing here?

Nicola Walker-ometer
She’s back! There’s a measure of contrivance in Ruth’s return to the show, necessary to undo the finality of her previous departure and to extricate her from the cushy life in Cyprus which she’d established forself. So cheerio to handsome new partner (they weren’t married so it’s OK he got killed), sayonara to her step-child in all but name, and welcome back to sweet emotional lrepression with Harry. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 8”

DVD Review: Albert Nobbs

“You don’t have to be anything but who you are”

Close’s sixth and most recent Academy Award nomination came with 2011’s Albert Nobbs, a project with which she has been closely connected since starring in an adaptation of George Moore’s novella in 1982. As a producer and co-writer with John Banville, it’s clearly a labour of love for Close and along with co-star Janet McTeer, there’s some powerfully accomplished acting going on here, directed by Rodrigo García, that was rightfully recognised, with nominations at least, in that award season.

It is, however, not the most vivacious piece of writing you’ll come across. Nobbs is a butler in a small Dublin hotel run by Pauline Collins’ Margaret Baker in the late 19th century, which caters to the various whims of a carousing upper class (Jonathan Rhys Meyer, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, John Light, Phyllida Law among the bisexual and bolshy). Reclusive but dedicated, Nobbs has been squirelling away wages and tips for years with the hope of purchasing his own business, there’s just the small matter of a little secret that is, of course, no secret to us. Continue reading “DVD Review: Albert Nobbs”

TV Review: London Spy

 “People lie Danny, they lie very well” 

Well this was a disappointment wasn’t it, there’s no two ways about it. Tom Rob Smith’s London Spy started its five episode run most promisingly with its forthrightly modern gay love story – between emotionally reclusive Secret Service operative Alex and Danny, a shift worker and regular on the hard-partying Vauxhall gay clubbing scene. Edward Holcroft and Ben Whishaw made a powerfully effective couple, negotiating their differences beautifully and believably so that by the time Alex went missing, the substance of the emerging conspiracy theories actually meant something.

But as the plot wound vaguely into labyrinthine dead ends and red herrings, it became increasingly hard to get a handle not just on what was happening but what Smith was trying to say. And directed in would-be sepulchral (but actually just frustratingly dark) gloom by Jakob Verbruggen, the joys of recognising bits of my local Vauxhall soon wore off as you realised that such a stunning supporting cast as Adrian Lester, Clarke Peters and Harriet Walter were indeed being criminally underused or landed with heinous dialogue and what started off irresistibly disintegrated into implausibility. Continue reading “TV Review: London Spy”

Television Review: BBC HD Film Shorts

“Why won’t you listen to me”

A bit of random thing that only came to my attention because of a kind soul on Twitter, this collection of five short films from the last few years presented by the BBC Film Network and BBC HD, offered the opportunity to notch up bonus appearances from Andrew Scott and Rafe Spall, as well as appreciating some up and coming filmmaking talent.

Scott’s film is Silent Things in which he plays Jake, a guy with Asperger’s who strikes up an unlikely camaraderie with a quirky teenager, Georgia Groome’s Amy who challenges him to test his boundaries with mixed results and which in turn also threatens his friendship with Charlotte, also autistic and who resents the closeness that Jake is able to achieve with others. Written by Rob Brown and Edward Jackson, it is small but perfectly formed and elevated by all three performances from its leads, not just Scott. Predictably he is excellent, unshaven and more unkempt than we’re used to seeing him, his is a performance of great subtlety leading us to empathise strongly with Jake’s predicament. Antonia Campbell-Hughes’ Charlotte suffers more severely and so is less able to socialise, her bluntness still sensitively portrayed though and the self-determined drive neatly suggested. Groome is also good and altogether, it made for an engaging short piece.

Modern Life is Rubbish was also amongst my favourites here, Rafe Spall and Rebecca Night starring as a recently split-up couple who are going through the traumatic experience of dividing their music collection and ruminating on their relationship, their potential future friendship and what might have been. It is very well written, Philip Gawthorne picking up on so many of the tiny awkward details like attending the same social events after the split, being brutally honest about the things you didn’t like about the other and the ease with which one can fall back into intimacy without even thinking about it. And well performed too, Spall’s traditional music obsessive railing against greatest hits collections and the very existence of the iPod, his bluffness not quite able to mask his breaking heart as Rebecca Night tries to remain pragmatic as the one who has moved out and so not wanting to spend any more time there than is necessary. Continue reading “Television Review: BBC HD Film Shorts”