Drama: Starring Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadowski, Michel Huisman, Gaby Hoffman. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee. Cert 15A
Films in which people set off to find themselves usually lose me by the halfway stage but this prime slice of Oscar-bait just about manages to get over the line without falling into Eat Pray Love territory.
The director of Dallas Buyers Club brings us the true story of Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon, who also produced), a young woman who, in 1995, decided to walk the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to the Canadian border in order to purge her inner demons and come to grips with the death of her mother, seen in flashback played by the great Laura Dern.
It’s an episodic movie with some lovely scenery and a strong central turn from Witherspoon but the constant learning of life lessons may be just a tad too self-helpy for some (read: male) viewers.
Liam Neeson's former-CIA agent Bryan Mills exists solely as an agent of vengeance. Other than commendable doggedness and a rather skewed value system that insists on honesty but appears to have no problem whatever with torture and murder, Mr Mills doesn't really have much by way of a personality.
Early on in Foxcatcher, Channing Tatum stands in the doorway of a magnificent, antique-filled drawing room. Hulking and bull-necked, he hovers in the door frame, afraid to move forward, uncertain how to act. He ought to be, because Bennett Miller's doggedly gloomy drama explores the corruption that corrodes the souls of those who get mixed up with extreme wealth.
It's hard to imagine a Hollywood studio taking on the story of Stephen Hawking - there's too much pain and science and disability involved. But if they had, every significant moment would have been drowned in a slush of soft lighting and maudlin music. However, The Theory of Everything was produced by Working Title, and is made with laudable focus, honesty and restraint.
It's the time of year when awards hopefuls start jostling for position, and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman has long-been tipped for big things. Michael Keaton's starring performance has attracted the most attention: he's already been nominated for a Golden Globe, and is considered one of the early favourites for the Best Actor Oscar. He plays a role that might have been, and possibly was, tailor-made for him, because Riggan Thompson's back-story has eerie similarities with Keaton's own.