Thursday 27 July 2017

Film review: Loving - effective and beautifully told

Cert: 12A; Now showing

Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton as Mildred and Richard in 'Loving'
Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton as Mildred and Richard in 'Loving'
Sandra Huller and Peter Simonischek in 'Toni Erdmann'

When Mildred Jeter became pregnant in 1958 and her boyfriend Richard Loving wanted to marry her they had to do so outside their native State of Virginia. Upon their return as newlyweds they lived quietly in their happily mixed race rural area but someone reported them to authorities. Because Mildred was black and Richard white, they had broken Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute, for which they were thrown in jail - the heavily pregnant Mildred for longer than her white husband.

They faced a 25-year sentence if they refused to end the marriage or leave the State, and it became the subject of a long drawn-out and landmark case in the United States.

Jeff Nichols, who has written and directed several excellent films, among them last year's underseen Midnight Special, takes the remarkable and galling story and makes it into a beautifully shot, authentic, excellently acted but on occasion somewhat too understated movie. The focus has mostly been on Ruth Negga's lovely portrayal of the quietly firm Mildred but Joel Edgerton's performance as Richard is excellent too. They were reluctant heroes, people who wanted a simple life but who were forced to live that in an entirely different environment to the one they desired. It was Mildred who was the main force behind seeking justice. The power of what must have been a remarkable love story is insinuated but perhaps needed to have been a little less subtle for the dramatic purposes of the film. It raises the tempo with Marton Csokas's almost casually nasty sheriff Brooks, or wondering who informed on the Lovings without gathering major dramatic speed. It is however important, effective and beautifully told.

★★★★

Aine O'Connor

Gold

Cert: 15A; Now showing

It's one thing giving a great performance in a great movie, it's another thing entirely to shine in a mediocre film.

And while Gold tells a good story not particularly well - it is further proof of the McConnaissance.

The bould Matthew gives a performance that carries the film. He's not alone. The cast are all good in a story that is based, rather loosely, on a true tale that although a few decades old is timely testimony to the ugliness of greed and capitalism.

In the early 1980s Kenny Wells (McConaughey) works in his father's successful prospecting company in Nevada. He has met and melted the heart of Kay (the always lovely presence of Bryce Dallas Howard) and life is good.

Fast-forward a few years and the now fat and balding Kenny has taken over the business - but the recession means it is all but lost.

Just as he hits rock bottom he has a dream - gold in the hills of Indonesia. Pawning his, and Kay's, last possessions he heads off to meet an old connection, Micke Acosta (Edgar Ramirez giving a great turn). He talks Acosta into working with him and together they strike gold.

Wall Street pounces, they're on the pig's back but clearly, they have to fall off.

The story is good but the pacing, tension and tone are very uneven which is largely down to director Stephen Gaghan. But the performances, especially McConaughey's, and a couple of unpredictable twists make it enjoyable.

★★★

Aine O'Connor

Toni Erdmann

Cert: 16. Selected cinemas

2017-02-05_ent_28336702_I1.JPG
Sandra Huller and Peter Simonischek in 'Toni Erdmann'
 

And so it is with Toni Erdmann that we bid farewell to the notion that Germans don't do humour.

The dad in this dotty and endearing father-daughter drama dons fake teeth and a wild wig that recall a Teutonic Sir Les Patterson. He pulls gags and pranks with the vim of an old hound, happy to see its master again at the end of the day. Charm is a portion of his winning recipe for laughter.

Much credit is due to Berlin writer-director Maren Ade (who based the character on her own father) for the way this Best Foreign Language Oscar contender sustains buoyancy and absorption during its two-and-three-quarter hours.

Its tale of an uppity corporate woman being softened by her mischievous father also manages to avoid any melodramatic ruts.

Played with a twinkle in the eye by Austrian veteran Peter Simonischek, Winfried is a music teacher still on good terms with his ex-wife but struggling to connect with daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller). She works for an oil consultancy in Bucharest, so when his beloved dog dies, he pays her a visit but is treated as an inconvenience as she negotiates a big deal.

Rather than take umbrage at his daughter's behaviour, his wise eyes see that she is lost. His solution is to create a farcical character who infiltrates her engagements.

Maren's screenplay has its eccentricities (for one, a bizarre sexual interlude), but is anchored by the gorgeous duelling of its leads. If only it was 40 minutes shorter.

★★★★

Hilary A White

Rings

Cert: 15A; Now showing

It's 15 years since Hideo Nakata's 1998 cult Japanese horror was given a US remake by director Gore Verbinski and subsequently hailed as one of the scariest films of all time.

Now on chapter No 3 (not to mention a tacked-on short), the law of diminishing returns is knocking so hard that we're starting to wonder how we ever got sucked in by this hokum about a VHS tape that kills you a week after you watch it.

Cruising for a spot of upset this time is Julia (the superbly named Italian model Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz). Nice-but-dim boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) has got himself involved in a college group studying the haunted videotape of the first two films, led by shifty lecturer Gabriel (The Big Bang Theory's Johnny Galecki). Holt and other guinea pigs watch the cursed clip before Gabriel finds "tails" to offload their curse on to. Julia takes it upon herself to not only take on Holt's hex but also find the root of the malevolence.

Vincent D'Onofrio's turn as a blind priest may be the most remarkable thing about this dull, uninvolving and shamelessly by-numbers dud that doesn't even update the myth for the digital age.

★★

Hilary A White

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Cert: 15A. Now showing

Having taken some $80m worldwide so far (bringing the total franchise take to $1bn), Resident Evil: The Final Chapter appears to be yet another review-proof instalment of the ghastly video-game adaptation.

Essentially a vehicle for Milla Jovovich to spray zombies with submachine-gun fire since 2002, writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson likes to concentrate not on innovation or subtle narrative themes but dishing out cheap thrills, shocking dialogue and cleavage to occupy the callow tastes of 12-year-old boys.

Billed as a last post-apocalyptic hurrah for Alice (Jovovich), newcomers really needn't bother at this stage. For those who do get blackmailed into a viewing, the obligatory debriefing on events thus far is provided. Alice comes to in a levelled Washington DC, dusts herself down and immediately starts pulverising any nasties lurking about. She must locate the antidote to the T-virus and save what remains of mankind. Where can it be found? That's right - down in the belly of the Umbrella Corp's treacherous "hive", so in we go. Bilge.

★★

Hilary A White

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