Movie reviews: Twice Shy, Hampstead, From the Land of the Moon, Slack Bay
- Twice Shy (16, 77mins) ★★★★
- Hampstead (12A, 103mins) ★★★
- From the Land of the Moon (16, 121mins) ★★★
- Slack Bay (No Cert, Light House, 122mins) ★★★★
Abortion is the word that sends every Irish politician running madly for the nearest hedge, but sooner or later this complex matter will have to be addressed. At least film-makers are doing so, and Tom Ryan's Twice Shy approaches the subject sensitively and intelligently, through the medium of romantic comedy. Andy (Shane Murray-Corcoran) and Maggie (Iseult Casey) are a young couple from Tipperary who fall in love but find the going tough.
As the film opens, Andy's driving her to the airport, from where she'll fly to London to undergo a termination. As they travel, we're given a series of flashbacks that reveal a more complex story than we might first have imagined. Both young leads are excellent, the film is crisply and succinctly directed, and Pat Shortt and Ardal O'Hanlon provide emotional resonance playing their respective parents. O'Hanlon in particular is excellent as an older man coping with depression, and overall, Twice Shy is a little gem.
Hampstead is a slighter, sillier affair, and reminded me of one of Richard Curtis's fluffier endeavours. It's very watchable, though, thanks to the winning pairing of Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson. She is Emily Walters, a recently bereaved widow who spots an eccentric character skulking through the woods on Hampstead Heath.
Donald (Gleeson), a misanthropic Irishman, lives in a cosy makeshift cottage lined with books. He's not too impressed when Emily first approaches him, but after a shaky start they hit it off. Just as they're getting romantically acquainted, however, Donald faces eviction from his beloved home as greedy developers eye up the land. And so, with Emily's help, he goes to court, arguing that he has a claim.
Though loosely based on the exploits of a Sligo man called Harry Hallowes, Hampstead is essentially a frothy autumnal romance, full of reassuring stereotypes. Donald is obsessed with personal hygiene and washes himself constantly. All of this makes it okay for Emily to sleep with a homeless man. This seems like overkill, and Joel Hopkins' direction is efficient, but anodyne. But Keaton and Gleeson know how to weave comedy from thin air.
If From the Land of the Moon were not in French, and did not star Marion Cotillard, we'd be rolling around in the aisles laughing at it. It's a melodrama, so rich and slushy it would make Douglas Sirk blush, and Cotillard plays Gabrielle, the unhappy eldest daughter of a Provençal farmer, who's driven mad by lust. Gabrielle is hastily married off to a Catalan farmhand called José (Alex Brendemuhl) and moves to the coast. José turns out to be a walking saint, which is just as well because Gabrielle will test his patience to the limit, denying him sex, then asking him to pay for it, then falling in love with a sickly soldier at a Swiss spa resort.
She's a pain in the arse, quite frankly, but the wonderful Cotillard somehow makes her seem real rather than ridiculous, and Nicole Garcia's film is enjoyable.
Set in the Pas de Calais in 1910, Bruno Dumont's Slack Bay is a truly bizarre picture, a surreal and stylised satire with touches of baroque horror. A family of upper class twits are horrified when one of their kids gets mixed up with a local fishing family, who are secret cannibals. Dumont's film plays with the eccentricities of the Pas de Calais culture and dialect, and is graced by stunning cinematography and two delightfully comic performances from Juliette Binoche and Fabrice Luchini. I really enjoyed it, but don't blame me if you don't.