FINDING YOUR FEET Cert 12A Running time 111 minutes Stars 3

Estranged sisters reconnect in this warm and bittersweet drama for the never-too-late generation.

Imelda Staunton is uptight and posh, but down on her luck, and has to move in with her poor but easy-going sibling, played by the saucy Celia Imrie.

It’s a British senior citizen riff on A Street Car Named Desire. Only with a lot less of Marlon Brando’s awesome sweaty animal magnetism, and a bit more cheery Timothy Spall and a nice hot cup of tea.

The veteran actors use their experience and charm to polish the pedestrian script and lift this into a sprightly and enjoyable experience, one it would be churlish to sneer at.

Gently exploring the difficulties of late middle age with good humour and sadness, it meanders a little as the producers eke their money’s worth out of Joanna Lumley.

And the message of refusing to stop dreaming just because we reach a certain age is one I’m increasingly keen to embrace.

THE SHAPE OF WATER Cert 15 Running time 123 minutes Stars 3

I’m surprised this fishy tale of aquatic love has made such a big splash at the Oscars, and being nominated for 13 Academy Awards is very much of a red herring.

A dark fantasy set in the early 1960’s during the Cold War, it sees a mute cleaner begin an amorous affair with an captured humanoid sea-beast. She is moved to pity, then love and finally to free him.

This curious hybrid is neither fish nor fowl. Imagine Free Wily being remade as a gothic fairytale with The Creature from the Black Lagoon having it away with Mrs Overall from TV’s Acorn Antiques.

It’s clear from an early moment of intimacy Brit actress Sally Hawkins, is playing a very different role to the maternal Mrs Brown in the Paddington Bear films. As cleaner Elisa she’s a romantic yet lonely soul. 

And her naked scenes with the rubber costumed Amphibian Man have an unfortunate Fifty Shades of kink to them.

The real monster on show is Michael Shannon’s evil head of security, who wants to see the creature sleeping with the fishes. And Soviet spies want the ‘asset’ for their own nefarious ends.

Following the box office disappointments of Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak, Mexican writer, director and producer, Guillermo del Toro, has had to scale back his previously outlandish budgets.

Though the production design is typically detailed and rich, his use of locations, cast and CGI are kept to a minimum.

Del Toro’s heavy handed script sees many characters unable to give voice to their true identities, and are forced to live lives of compromise without love or face repercussions.

Following Hollywood’s ongoing sex scandals, this plea for tolerance, openness and inclusion is undoubtedly the reason for the film chiming so loudly with the Oscar voters.

With the message weighing down the entertainment, it’s mostly due to Hawkins’ impassioned performance this fairytale just about holds water.

 

THE MERCY Cert 12A Running time 102 minutes Stars 2

Set sail with Colin Firth in this real life adventure which is an endurance challenge for the audience.

At 57 years old he’s missed the boat by about twenty years for this role, and he looks as if he’s been borrowing Paul McCartney’s hair dye.

The Kings Speech star plays Donald Crowhurst, an amateur yachtsman who in 1968 took up the challenge to become the first person to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe without stopping.

I’ve always been bemused when foolhardy posh people call stupid activities a sport, and expect us to care when they go wrong. For example Richard Branson’s hot air ballon rides. 

Crowhurst’s business is ailing, and similarly to Branson he sees the jaunt as an advertising opportunity.

A sentimental script asks us to have sympathy for this cowardly, underprepared chancer who quickly resorts to cheating. That’s Crowhurst not Branson, by the way.

Meanwhile your enjoyment depends on the appeal of bunking up with Firth on a soggy seven month trip. Bon voyage, old bean.

 

THE 15:17 TO PARIS Cert 15 Running time 93 minutes Stars 4

Director Clint Eastwood gives us the slow burn on the fast track in this seat-gripping biographical drama.

On 21 August 2015, two unarmed off-duty US servicemen and a civilian buddy were on a Paris bound train armed only with extraordinary bravery, when they prevented a potential massacre.

In a remarkable show of faith and possibly filmmaking ego, Eastwood casts Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos as themselves, and in fairness they do a pretty decent job. Credit to the director for tailoring his film to their abilities.

The incident occupies only a small part of the film so Eastwood can show in depth just how ordinary these blue collar guys were, going as far back to when they were naughty school kids. Once we know and like them, he dumps us next to them on the train that changed their lives.

This isn’t about terrorism or even the unnamed terrorist, but an examination of what makes a hero. You’ll want to salute them.