Saturday 21 September 2019

Movie reviews: On Chesil Beach, The Breadwinner, Edie, Show Dogs

  • On Chesil Beach (15A, 110mins) - 3 stars
  • The Breadwinner (12A, 93mins) - 4 stars
  • Edie (12A, 101mins) - 3 stars
  • Show Dogs (PG, 92mins) - 2 stars
Make war, not love: Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle in On Chesil Beach
Make war, not love: Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle in On Chesil Beach
Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

'The past is another country," the writer L.P. Hartley once helpfully told told us, "they do things differently there", and his point is perfectly illustrated in On Chesil Beach. Adapted by Ian McEwan from his own novel, Dominic Cooke's film is set in 1962 and stars Saoirse Ronan as Florence Ponting, an Oxford graduate and talented cellist who's just married an affable young man called Edward Mayhew (Billy Howle).

They've repaired to a fly-blown hotel on the Dorset coast for a brief honeymoon, and while Edward is beside himself with excitement about their impending intimacy, Florence quietly eyes the bed with dread. When they eventually get there, their attempts to couple become a ballet of awkwardness. Both are virgins: he cannot kiss, she does not seem to want to, and as the clothes come off poor Edward gets so het up he prematurely ejaculates.

Florence flies from the room in horror, and wanders disconsolate along a nearby beach. And when Edward catches up with her, she makes him an extraordinary offer: if they could learn to live together sexlessly, they might be happy; he could have lovers, and their shared interests and deep affection would fill the gaps. He reacts angrily, and they separate, but the decision will haunt him for the rest of his life.

Dominic Cooke's film moves fluently back and forth in time as we're given an idea of where they both came from, and what will happen next. It all makes sense until late on, when a final leap into the future feels a step too far. The best scenes are those awful moments in the hotel room, and Saoirse Ronan's performance and accent are nothing short of miraculous.

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Cartoon Saloon's Oscar-nominated animation The Breadwinner finally gets its cinema release this week. Directed by Nora Twomey, it's a beautiful and darkly lyrical film set in Afghanistan's war-ravaged capital, Kabul. A young girl called Parvana (Saara Chaudry) is at the market with her father Nurullah, a former teacher crippled during the Soviet invasion, when they're confronted by a pair of Taliban operatives. When one of them decides that Nurullah has insulted him, the old man is arrested and disappears into a nightmarish prison.

During the Taliban's barbarous rule, women were not allowed work, and the girl, her mother, sister and baby nephew are in danger of starving until Parvana makes the brave decision to pose as a boy and find a job. Her subsequent adventures will expose the cruelty and nonsensical stupidity of the Taliban's ham-fisted theocracy, its ugliness a stark contrast to this heartfelt, wonderfully animated film.

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In Edie, an elderly woman takes flight when released from misogynistic drudgery of a more prosaic kind. Edie (Sheila Hancock) was bullied by her dismissive husband George, then spent 30 years minding him after he had a stroke. When he dies, she finds a postcard from her late father suggesting a hike up a Scottish mountain, and decides to strike out for the Highlands and take on the climb herself.

Kevin Guthrie plays a local guide who befriends her, and the film has much to say about how the elderly are underestimated and constantly sidelined. Hancock convinces as the touchy but tenacious Edie, and the film's sometimes saccharine storyline is underscored by moments of melancholy. It's slight, but moving.

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Nothing melancholy or moving about Show Dogs, a whimsical live action children's film about a police mutt called Max. A rottweiler with a macho swagger, Max (voiced by Chris Bridges) is not best pleased when he's teamed with a human detective called Frank (Will Arnett) and sent to a Las Vegas dog show. There, posing as contestants, they will attempt to stop the illegal sale of a panda. This is clumsy stuff, and Arnett looks lost among his slobbering co-stars.

Irish Independent

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