Short reviews of three recent releases: The Farewell, The Nightingale, and Gwen.
Tag: Sam Claflin
* ½ (out of 4)
If you haven’t actually seen Roger Michell’s My Cousin Rachel, you could easily be tricked into believing that it faithfully carries forth the Hitchcockian tradition of suspense. The story, after all, is based on a novel by Daphne du Maurier, the English author of the books that inspired Hitchcock’s Rebecca and The Birds. Rachel’s various trailers take pains to amplify the “mysterious” nature of the plot – which, for reference, follows a man named Philip (Sam Claflin) as he gets to know a woman (named Rachel, played by Rachel Weisz) who may or may not be responsible for the death of his guardian. Even Michell himself has openly stated that he made Rachel with the intention of creating “the sensation of horror hovering at the edge of the frame.”
With such high expectations buffeting Rachel before you enter the theater, you’re bound to come out at least somewhat dissatisfied. Yet even if you watch Rachel with no knowledge of its background, the movie completely underwhelms.
** (out of 4)
WARNING: Spoilers ahead.
If there’s just one thing Danish-born director Lone Scherfig wants you to take away from Their Finest, her new movie about a (fictitious) woman named Catrin (Gemma Arterton) who scripts a “morale-boosting” film for the British public during World War II, it’s that movies, above all else, are an escape. You get a first inkling of this notion when Catrin’s screenwriting colleague, a sharp, somewhat arrogant man named Tom (Sam Clafin), abruptly bursts into a nostalgic monologue on how life, unlike film, doesn’t have “structure” or “purpose.” The events that follow – right after the two of them first kiss, he dies in front of her eyes when a large crate falls on him – only hammer the point in further. And by the end, as we see moviegoers cry in a theater and a final image of Catrin happily working at her screenwriter desk, the self-serving, Sullivan’s Travels-esque message of the story has been all but firmly implanted in your brain: life is cruel, and the world of cinema is the best way to deal with the pain.
How ironic, then, that Their Finest itself turns out to be anything but a pleasant, painkilling escape.