Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan deliver committed performances in Francis Lee’s Ammonite but the film rarely excites
“You know you can always ask me for help”
Francis Lee follows up the exceptional God’s Own Country with another story about hard labour in LGBTQ+ lives, this time focusing on the first letter of the acronym. Ammonite follows the life of 18th century fossil hunter Mary Anning, a woman working hard in her chosen field but stifled by Victorian attitudes which resulted in her discoveries being shown without any credit being given to her in her lifetime.
Lee couples this narrative of historical misogyny with a love story of his own making, a speculative romance that sees a growing connection build with Charlotte Murchison. Their ‘meet-cute’ comes at the behest of Murchison’s husband, a geologist wanting to learn from Anning’s practices and when he opts to take a trip away which conveniently coincides with his wife falling into a depression, a period of convalesence under Mary’s care in Lyme Regis is prescribed. Continue reading “Film Review: Ammonite (2020)”
Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director of the Young Vic, has announced the start of the Young Vic’s 50th birthday with a year-long programme of work entitled We are the New Tide, dedicated to the theatre’s milestone birthday.
The 50th birthday year of work begins with three major commissions:
- The New Tomorrow– for the first piece of live theatre since the pandemic closed UK theatres, this weekend festival of speeches and monologues asks what the next fifty years hold. Writers and artists Jade Anouka, Marina Carr, Jasmine Lee-Jones, Ruth Madeley, Amy Ng, Stef Smith, Jack Thorne, Isobel Waller-Bridge and Steve Waters will explore the change that has come and is coming. Cast to be announced.
3 & 4 October, 4pm, Main House, free
In which the rollercoaster of quality rockets sky-high again, Series 7 of Spooks ranks as one of my favourites
“I want my team to know why I acted the way I did”
The introduction of series-long plots didn’t necessarily work first time round for Spooks but in Series 7, the magic certainly happens to produce one of the best seasons across its decade-long life. Perhaps the reduced episode order from 10 to 8 helped to refine the effectiveness of the storytelling, recognising that it was Adam’s time to go definitely worked and finally made the right kind of room for Ros to rise, and giving Gemma Jones this material was an absolute masterstroke.
Undoing the silly fakeouts of Ros and Jo’s ‘deaths’ right from the off, the introduction of Richard Armitage’s Lucas North also works well, his time in Russian captivity casting a nice shade of doubt over his presence in the team, a marked difference to the alpha males of Tom and Adam. And the ongoing Sugarhorse mystery is skillfully wound throughout the whole season, coiling ever-tighter until the hammer blows of a properly fierce finale.
She’s just a distant memory at this point – Harry really is such a fuckboy. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 7”
AKA the one that doesn’t work and the one that you should avoid if you’re feeling angsty about the current situation – approach Spooks Series 6 with caution
“The only option will be national quarantine and burial pits”
Series 6 is one of the trickier ones to watch right now so be warned – it opens with a two-parter called ‘The Virus’ which makes for a eerily chilling watch. It’s also a curious season as whilst the introduction of a series-long storyline – Iran seeking to gain nuclear capability – for the first time seems like it should work no problem, the reality doesn’t hang together quite as well as it ought.
The major level conspiracy theory takes too long to click into gear, and never really reaches the high-stakes territory it needs to hit home hard. The ‘mole in MI-5’ thread doesn’t pay off convincingly, recruiting another journalist off the street tests the patience (sorry Ben) and where one fake-out death of a major character might be permitted, two in the space of three episodes feels lazy. A major disappointment following the highs of Series 5.
Absolute zero, it’s as if she never existed. Fucking Harry. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 6”
Elton John gets in on the self-produced musical biopic game, meaning Rocketman is gonna take a long long time to get anywhere near the truth
“People don’t pay to see Reginald Dwight…
they pay to see *Elton John*!”
I always find there being something a little suspect about the subject of a biopic being intimately involved behind the scenes, that sense that you’re only being permitted to see a carefully curated version of this particular story (cf Tina the Musical, On Your Feet onstage; Bohemian Rhapsody most recently on film). And Rocketman ultimately proves no exception, with Elton John executive producing and husband David Furnish getting a producer credit, and Wikipedia thus offering up a substantial list of deviations from what actually happened.
You might argue that as the film, written by Lee Hall and directed by Dexter Fletcher, isn’t a documentary, it doesn’t need to concern itself with an absolute fidelity to historical record. But I just find it fascinating this need to embellish, so much being smuggled under the umbrella of ‘creative license’ that can’t always be explained away with the ‘needs’ of filmmaking. Things as fundamental as changing the inspiration for Reg Dwight’s stage name from his mentor Long John Baldry to John Lennon, or claiming that ‘Daniel’ and ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues’ were the songs he auditioned for with Dick James when neither had been written yet. At what point does that creative license start being straight-up dishonesty? Continue reading “Film Review: Rocketman (2019)”
Gentleman Jack proves a huge success, for Sally Wainwight, for Suranne Jones, for lesbian storytelling, for everyone
“So much drama, always, with Anne”
Even with as reliably assured hands as Sally Wainwright’s at the tiller, I was a little nervous for Gentleman Jack in the pride-of-place Sunday evening TV slot. But I should have been surer of my faith, for it has been a stonkingly good 8 hours of drama, with an epically romantic lesbian relationship at its heart.
Anne Lister (Suranne Jones) is a wealthy Yorkshire heiress whose uncompromising nature about any and every aspect of her life rubs any number of people up the wrong way. Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) is most definitely not one of them though, she wants to be rubbed the right way and so we follow the path of true love as it winds through the prejudices of the Yorkshire Pennines and Anne’s attempts to break into the coal mining world. Continue reading “TV Review: Gentleman Jack Series 1”
Such a brilliant British gay film – I finally get around to watching God’s Own Country
“My country is dead. You can’t throw a rock in most towns without hitting an old lady crying for her children who have gone.”
Of course its taken me months to get round to watching God’s Own Country and of course I loved it utterly and completely. It’s grim up north and there’s nowt so queer as folk, not least Johnny Saxby, single-handedly holding his family’s failing farm together after his father’s stroke. He numbs the pain with blackout drinking sessions in the pub and rough casual sex with any guy who is up for it, but it’s no life, something has to change.
That change comes in the form of Gheorghe, a Romanian farm labourer brought in for the lambing season. His moody dark looks, lovely chunky knit and sheep’s cheese-making ways don’t quite melt Johnny’s heart so much as grip it, yank its pants down and roll in the mud with it. Theirs is a viscerally physical connection, reflecting the hard labour on this unforgiving Yorkshire countryside, and slowly, Gheorghe begins to shift Johnny’s views on the world. Continue reading “Film Review: God’s Own Country (2017)”
“We’re not doing in fucking tights, with whatever those fucking old jock-strap things are called that they wear”
NOW – in the Wings on a World Stage is a behind-the-scenes look at the final instalment of the Bridge Project, a transatlantic theatrical enterprise that saw a partnership between the Old Vic, London, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York and Neal Street Production. Over each of its three years, a single Anglo-American company was brought together to perform classic plays, culminating in a production of Richard III that toured the world for over 200 years.
Led by Kevin Spacey’s Tricky Dicky (very much Frank Underwood in the making) and director Sam Mendes in their first collaboration since the Oscar winning American Beauty, NOW… is still very much a company piece, giving us a glimpse into life on the road not just for the actors but also for all the creatives, it’s fascinating to see the challenges that faced the associate director Bruce Guthrie and his stage management team as this substantial production moved from city to city. Continue reading “DVD Review: NOW – in the Wings on a World Stage”
“All these cases where people pretends to be one thing for half a century and then turn out to be something else”
The insanity that is the scheduling wars between the BBC and ITV often throws up random anomalies but rarely has the result been something as rewarding as a surfeit of Nicola Walker. Having recently made River for the BBC and Unforgotten for ITV, both police dramas were premiered in the same week and as six-part dramas, are reaching their climax at the same time too. And what has been particularly pleasing is the fact that both have proved to be highly watchable and interesting takes on the genre.
Chris Lang’s Unforgotten focused on a cold case from nearly 40 years ago as skeletal remains are found in the basement of a derelict house and in the cleverly constructed first episode, the four disparate characters that we have been following are eventually tied together as their phone numbers are found in the victim’s diary. Walker’s DCI Cassie Stuart and Sanjeev Bhaskar’s DS Sunny Khan soon identify him as a Jimmy Sullivan but the show focuses as much on the effect of long-buried secrets on the potential suspects as it does on the case itself. Continue reading “TV Review: Unforgotten”
Jason Watkins – The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies as Christopher Jefferies (ITV)
Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlock as Sherlock Holmes (BBC One)
Toby Jones – Marvellous as Neil Baldwin (BBC Two)
James Nesbitt – The Missing as Tony Hughes (BBC One)
Georgina Campbell – Murdered by My Boyfriend as Ashley Jones (BBC Three)
Keeley Hawes – Line of Duty as DI Lindsay Denton (BBC Two)
Sarah Lancashire – Happy Valley as Catherine Cawood (BBC One)
Sheridan Smith – Cilla as Cilla Black (ITV) Continue reading “2015 British Academy Television Awards winners”