Reviews: The Falling, The Good Lie, The Emperor's New Clothes, Gente de Bien
The Independent's film critic Paul Whitington reviews this week's other big releases - The Falling, The Good Lie, The Emperor's New Clothes, and Gente de Bien.
Carol Morley's wonderfully eccentric film The Falling (4*, 16, 102mins) is set in 1969 and has echoes of the great British horror films of that period. Partly inspired by a real incident, the film explores the terrifying and mysterious massed powers of a group of pubescent girls. Like most of her classmates, Lydia (Maisie Williams) is in awe of her friend Abbie (Florence Pugh), a beautiful and sexually precocious girl.
Lydia is shocked but fascinated when Abbie tells her she might be pregnant. But her fainting fits and nausea may have a darker cause, and when she dies suddenly, Lydia is left desperately searching for answers. Her mother, Eileen (Maxine Peake) is a nervy agoraphobic who seems incapable of demonstrating affection, and Lydia had depended on Abbie for love. Her death unhinges Lydia, and unleashes a rash of fainting fits among the girls that appears to have no rational explanation.
Carol Morley's haunting and stylish film doesn't make the mistake of trying to explain any of this, and instead plays cleverly with the mystery of it all. The Falling is full of gorgeous images that stay with you, and Ms. Morley's script has salty humorous undercurrents that puncture her film's dream-like mood.
Based on a true story and featuring some pretty decent performances, The Good Lie (3*, 12A, 110mins) is the kind of film that should have moved me to tears but didn't. Instead I felt constantly exercised by the vaguely patronising attitude it adopted to its protagonists, a group of young Sudanese refugees who find themselves all at sea when they emigrate to America. In the film's best sequence, we find out how Mamere (Arnold Oceng) and his three friends are orphaned and left homeless during a brutal raid on their South Sudanese home.
Years later, in the year 2000, they're given the chance to relocate to the United States. Mamere and two of his friends wind up in Kansas City, where they're taken under the reluctant wing of Carrie, a kindly recruitment officer played with casual assurance by Reese Witherspoon, who dowdies down to let us know she's doing some serious acting.
Her interactions with the young immigrants are sometimes touching, occasionally humorous. But Philippe Falardeau's competent but curiously lifeless film squanders the potential of its story, and misses no opportunity to pat its subjects on the head.
Michael Winterbottom and Russell Brand might seem an odd combination, and so it proves in The Emperor's New Clothes (3*, 12A, 102mins), an entertaining, rambling film that's not quite a documentary, more a hectoring polemic. Seven years after the financial collapse of 2008, Messrs Brand and Winterbottom are still exercised about how all those nasty bankers got away with it.
Mr Brand, doing his usual and thoroughly winning cheeky-chappie routine, returns to his hometown of Shoreditch to have tea and biccies with the locals and find out how hard life has been for the ordinary folk. He then turns his attention to the masters of the universe, fat cat bankers who who awarded themselves bonuses for collapsing their institutions and to a man avoided spending a single second in jail. It's all perfectly watchable but most of this has been said before, and far better, by documentary film-makers such as Charles Ferguson, and Russell Brand's band-standing protests in banks and outside mansions seem silly, and impotent.
And finally a brief word about Gente de Bien (4*, No Cert, IFI, 86mins), a lean, pared-back and masterfully made Colombian film about a young boy nobody seems to want. When Eric's mother emigrates for work, he's sent to live with his well-meaning but shambolic dad, whose ineptitudes as a parent soon become apparent. It's a gritty, absorbing little film, and packs a commendable emotional punch.