Friday 15 December 2017

Movie review: The Sense of an Ending

Cert: 15A; Now showing

Billy Howle as young Tony and Emily Mortimer as Mrs Ford in 'The Sense of an Ending'
Billy Howle as young Tony and Emily Mortimer as Mrs Ford in 'The Sense of an Ending'
Min-hee Kim and Tae-ri Kim in a scene from Park Chan-wook's thriller The Handmaiden

Hilary A White

Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) has a fairly unremarkable life fixing cameras, nattering with his ex-wife (Harriet Walker) and taking his heavily pregnant daughter (Michelle Dockery) to pre-natal classes.

Out of the blue, a solicitor's letter informs him a diary has been left to him by the mother of his first love, Veronica (Charlotte Rampling). It is in Veronica's care, he is told, but she is not forthcoming with handing it over, apparently.

While trying to retrieve the item, he is forced to re-examine the version of his past that he has been telling himself for 40 years. To do so, he must go back to his relationship with Veronica (the young incarnation played by Freya Mavor), her mother (Emily Mortimer) and his highly intelligent but troubled classmate Adrian (Joe Alwyn). Something was amiss all those years ago that can no longer be glossed over, it seems.

Ritesh Batra had us swooning in 2013 with his Mumbai-set romance The Lunchbox. For this adaptation of Julian Barnes's Man Booker winner, the Indian director cannot locate similar levels of heart out of a bourgeois, Guardian-reading, espresso-sipping London backdrop.

The film ends up occupying an awkward territory between wrenching and redemptive, and "Richard Curtis knock-off". Nick Payne's occasionally stagey dialogue, meanwhile, betrays his more natural habitat as a playwright of note. While Rampling is a little under-used, the cast are all on song. ★★★

The Handmaiden

Cert: 18; Now showing

Min-hee Kim and Tae-ri Kim in a scene from Park Chan-wook's thriller The Handmaiden

Korean film-maker Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Stoker) moves Sarah Waters’s novel Fingersmith from Victoria England to 1930s Korea.

It’s a thriller told in three parts, a love story and very much a look at one version of gender divisions. It is beautiful, engaging and sometimes funny too. Sookee (Kim Tae-ri) is a pickpocket chosen by a fellow crook (Ha Jung-woo) who has hatched a plan to pose as a Japanese Count in order to get in with Kouzuki (Cho Jin-woong) a collector of rare books in thrall to Japanese nobility. The real aim of the fake count however is to marry Kouzuki’s innocent but wealthy niece Hideko (Kim Min-hee), take her money and put her in an asylum. Sookee, positioned as her maid, is to be his accomplice.

Over two hours this subtitled thriller is surprisingly accessible. The twist is great, and although the film strays into fetishism and misogyny, Park’s usual violence is limited to the end. Heterosexual male versions of lesbian love scenes can be off and the final scene felt gratuitous, yet in other ways it is vaguely girl power.  ★★★★ Aine O’Connor

The Fast & The Furious 8

Cert: 12A; Now showing

Yes, F&F8. And I have seen, and more shockingly to me, enjoyed way more of them than I might have predicted. This latest instalment, the first made since Paul Walker died (shortly before filming wrapped on F&F7) sees the usual crew joined not only by Jason Statham but two Oscar-winning actresses.

This time around Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are on honeymoon in Cuba. Fortunately we don't have to endure too much of the grinning Toretto before the action starts. Then he meets a gorgeous blonde (Charlize Theron) who turns out to be Cipher, the world's most dangerous hacker. She has something on Toretto that forces him to abandon everything to work for her. Mr Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his new sidekick Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) gather together Letty and the remaining F&F crew (Dwayne 'my guilty pleasure' Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges and Nathalie Emmanuel) and make them work with arch enemy Shaw (Statham) to defeat Cipher, and by extension, Toretto.

F&F8 will not convert non fans, but devotees of the car-chase action genre and of this franchise should be very happy. It's self-aware enough to be tongue-in-cheek, high octane, utterly ridiculous and has some magic set ups, notably one with self-driving cars, and essentially it does what it says on the tin. ★★★★ (Within genre) Aine O'Connor

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