Saturday 7 December 2019

Cinema reviews - The Equalizer, Violette, Human Capital

Rosamund Pike and David Tennant in What We Did on Our Holiday
Rosamund Pike and David Tennant in What We Did on Our Holiday
Michael Pitt and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey in I Origins
Chloe Grace Moretz and Denzel Washington in The Equalizer

Hilary A White, Padraic McKiernan and Aine O'Connor

The Equalizer Cert 16. Now Showing. The second Cold War may not have officially kicked off yet, but going by the number of big-screen baddies sporting Russian accents these days, there are significant signs that the temperature has started to dip in Hollywood.

Director Antoine Fuqua's action adventure offering The Equalizer is but the latest release to improve the fortunes of Equity card holders who can acquit themselves credibly as goons called Vlad or Sergei.

Based on a popular 1980s TV series, this big-screen adaptation features Denzel Washington as mystery man Robert McCall. The initial scene-setting depicts his character as a monument to monasticism and restraint.

The day job consists of a retail position working in a Boston-based megastore while nights are spent reading at an all-night diner. It's here he befriends a troubled teen prostitute played by Chloe Grace Moretz. Their friendship puts McCall on a collision course with a bullet-ridden denouement. Only it doesn't quite work out that way.

These Russian goons led by Teddy (Marton Csokas) may make the Italian Mafia look like boy scouts but in McCall they've met their match, and then some. Cue a Goonmageddon scenario as this unlikely hero is revealed as a ruthless killing machine.

Fast-paced and stylish, The Equaliser stretches credibility to breaking point at times but still manages somehow to stay on the right side of surreal. The ending suggests a franchise could yet be born. Is The Equalizer about to become The Sequelizer? Let's hope so.


Editor's Pick - What We Did on Our Holiday

Cert 12A

The title for British comedy What We Did on Our Holiday may conjure up images of a bright and breezy affair but the reality is a little less candy-coated. The good news to report about this tale directed by Andy Hamiliton and Guy Jenkin, however, is that it’s all the better for its edgy undertones.

So let’s meet the McLeods, the family at the heart of affairs. London-based, they are about to embark on a journey to the Scottish Highlands to celebrate the 75th birthday of family patriarch Gordy McLeod (Billy Connolly). Suspicions that home is where the heartbreak is are confirmed with the revelation that parents Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) are in the throes of marital meltdown while their three kids (Emilia Jones, Bobby Smalldridge and Harriet Turnbull) are exhibiting varying degrees of emotional collateral damage.

A high gag count and terrific performances act as reminders you’re still at a comedy, but arrival in the spectacular Scottish Highlands acts as a catalyst for more family turmoil. Their hosts, Doug’s brother Gavin (Ben Miller) and his wife Margaret ( Amelia Bullmore) are both highly-strung to the point of, out of string while a dodgy ticker means Gordy’s 75th is expected to be his last. Just as you think proceedings are about to descend into the touchy-feely, along comes a high-risk twist that threatens to derail the entire experience but ultimately succeeds in elevating it into the realm of the memorable.

There are flaws, but an abundance of quality one-liners and exceptional casting ensure the end product is as close to fab as makes no difference.



IFI and selected from October 3. No cert.

Violette Leduc was born in France in 1907, the illegitimate daughter of house maid, a shame which shaped the rest of her life. Lacking in self-esteem and emotional stability, her first major love affair was with a girl in boarding school, then there was a bad marriage and unwanted pregnancy and then a relationship with writer Maurice Sachs. Co-writer and director Martin Provost (who made the lovely Seraphine) begins his telling of Violette’s story during her sojourn with Sachs (Olivier Py) in rural France. They are keeping away from Nazi -occupied Paris, Sachs is still in the closet something that Violette (Emmanuelle Devos) takes personally, his one gift to her, before he runs away, is to encourage her to write.

Back in Paris after the war Violette, makes a living in the black market and when she finishes her autobiography she submits it to Simone de Beauvoir (Sandrine Kiberlain). De Beauvoir becomes a champion, believing that Leduc has a unique voice in French literature and a previously unseen honesty that tallies very much with her own vision for the Second Sex.

Provost divides the story into chapters, each one based on an important figure in Violette’s jumbled life. The major figures of French 20th-Century literature drift in and out, on- and off-screen but the star is Violette.  Passionate, bolshy, stubborn, fragile and gifted with an extraordinary vision it was not easy for her to fit in and although this bothered her she did not really try. There have been some great roles for women in French cinema of late, this is another and Devos rises to the occasion impressively. The barely recognisable Kiberlaine is also excellent as de Beauvoir and Violette’s mother, (Catherine Heigel - no, not that one) is another great character.

The film covers twenty years of Leduc’s life, referencing the main important moments and people, it takes over two hours to do so and whilst requiring an investment of audience, it is full on without being emotionally draining and is a remarkable character study of a woman coming to terms with herself.


I Origins

Cert 15A. Now showing.

The film critic Nathan Rabin coined the phrase “manic pixie dream girl” to denote a trope character in indie films, that of the kooky unconventional beauty who opens the eyes of the “broodingly soulful” male protagonist to life’s wonders. Think Natalie Portman in

Garden State and you’ve got it.

I Origins, an indie-ish reincarnation sci-fi, whips up an “MPDG” that should similarly succeed in annoying most female viewers. In this case,  it is played by Astrid Berges-Frisbey, who appears to Dr Ian Gray (Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Pitt) at a fancy dress party claiming to be from another planet and discussing mythological creatures. The pair become an item, his hard scientific outlook getting prodded  by her airy-fairy carry on.

Of course, this is not entirely what I Origins is about, although it may as well be. Instead, what writer/director Mike Cahill (Another Earth) gives us is a tale about young ambitious boffins uncovering replication in the seemingly unique patterns of the human iris. Could this be a ripple in the very existential fabric? Maybe more than one person can have an identical window to the soul.

It is admirable how far Cahill’s film and his fine cast get out of such a premise, reason enough to go easy on I Origins. But there is also a woozy, hand-held wonder about Markus Forderer’s cinematography and a few riddles woven deftly into the screenplay. Shame then that it lets itself down with some iffy dialogue and a slightly anticlimactic ending.


Human Capital

Club IFI. Now showing.

The Italians know about character-driven tragedy, but Paolo Virzi’s multi-angle melodrama hits such levels of soapiness that you might need a rinse afterwards.

Predicting the downfall of Dino (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) is easy. Charmed over a game of tennis, he gets into financial bed with shifty hedge-fund merchant Giovanni (Fabrizio Gifuni), whose son is seeing Dino’s daughter Serena (Matilde Gioli). It’s the economic crisis, and the small-time estate agent fancies a piece of the pie enjoyed by the seemingly super-rich Giovanni. 

This, however, is only one strand of the tale, which shifts to the perspective of other characters — Giovanni’s beleaguered and bored wife Carla (an excellent Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), and Serena, who falls for a local artist with a penchant for self-harm. What ties these threads is a hit-and-run incident that someone in the milieu has been involved in. If it’s going to get better, it must first get worse. If.

Such dramatic triptychs require a steady hand, on stage or screen. Human Capital works hard to keep

things ticking evenly in each chapter but doesn’t quite manage it. What it does have is crafty editing as Virzi moves the viewpoint around, as well as a cast who chew into their roles with bravura and little subtlety. This is optimal for a saga about the lines between charity and predation blurring, let alone your average soap.


If you do one thing this week... then dress to kill

Stitches In Time, an exhibition of dress designs inspired by gas-masks, 18th century soldier's helmets, rifles and a WWI parachute, on display at the National Museum of Ireland - Decorative Arts & History, Collins Barracks, until October 26.


Hard Working Class Heroes 2014, a series of 35 free daytime gigs in shops, markets and cafes around Dublin, featuring artists Leanne Harte, right, Buffalo Woman and Neon Atlas, runs from Thursday October 2 to Saturday October 4.


Vardo takes audiences on a stimulating and sometimes disturbing journey to explore first-hand the present day underworld of Dublin's north inner city, at the Oonagh Young Gallery, 1 James Joyce Street, Liberty Corner, Dublin 1, until October 12.


Wild at Heart which takes place next Saturday in the Dalkey Heritage Centre, Main Street, Dalkey. 10 - 4pm, is an event aimed at women who are wondering what to do with their lives. Topics covered include health, finance, fashion and the day will be chaired by Lise Ann McLaughlin, above. For details see


Heading for the Light, written by broadcaster Colm Keane, outlines the ten things which happen when we die, and is drawn from the real-life stories of people who have temporarily died and returned to life. Published by Capel Island.






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