THE BOY DOWNSTAIRS

Cert 12A 89mins Stars 2

There’s little to laugh at in this slight, limp, frustrating and maudlin millennial romcom.

The likeable Zosia Mamet stars as aspiring writer and singleton, Diana, who has moved to New York after three years in London.

She takes a job in a bridal shop and this is probably intended as irony but the script fails to build on the idea.

Moving into an apartment Diana is surprised to discover her ex-boyfriend is the boy living downstairs and OMG, in a new relationship.

Matthew Shear’s struggling musician Ben is such a remarkably unprepossessing presence I’m staggered he can romance not one but two attractive women during the course of the film.

And that’s without his default behaviour which is clingy, spineless and dull.

Thank goodness for Diana’s best friend Gabby, who brings energy and humour and is far more worthy of our attention than her sadly scant screen time allows.

Plus her love life seems much more dynamic, interesting and well, fun.

THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY

Cert 12A 124mins Stars 4

Tuck in to this crowd pleasing tasty feast of a post-war detective story. Served with a heart-warming helping of romance, it’s far more satisfying than it sounds.

Star of Disney’s live action Cinderella and formerly of Downton Abbey, Lily James takes centre stage as a successful author called Juliet.

She’s sent to Guernsey in 1946 to write about the eponymous book and cookery club, established by the locals as a self support group during the wartime Nazi occupation.

To underscore the film belongs to James, she’s given a full Hollywood entrance in a stunning yellow ballgown. Always an engaging presence, she sweeps us away with her considerable talent and charm.

Though initially welcomed by the club, its members are reluctant to discuss the whereabouts of the founder member who is mysteriously ‘off island’. So Juliet sets off to uncover the truth of her disappearance.

Very much a love letter to literature of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, so true to form our romantically named heroine is caught between the attentions of Glen Powell’s dashing American diplomat, and Michiel Huisman’s hunky book-loving farmer, called Darcy, sorry, Dawsey. 

With complex family loyalties and grief and anger for those lost in the war, the script takes a sideways glance at the UK’s torturous relationship with the European mainland.

This is an exception to the cinematic rule of thumb which says the length of a films’ title is in inverse proportion to its quality. It’s stuffed with rich characters and production design, and set on the picture postcard-pretty island.

Plus there’s great warmth and humour from supporting cast, particularly veteran stars Penelope Wilton and Tom Courtney.

Director Mike Newell is one of the great unsung heroes of British cinema, due to his unassuming signature style which always serves the audience by putting the story first.

The result is a rewarding and entertaining slice of British fare you can really get your teeth into. 

 

OVERBOARD

Cert 12A 112mins Stars 3

Allow yourself to drift along with this sunny and smooth sailing romcom and you’ll not be disappointed with your destination.

Anna Faris plays a struggling single mother, Kate, who convinces Mexico’s Eugenio Derbez’s amnesia-ridden wealthy playboy they’re married.

It’s a gender-flipped remake of the 1987 comedy starring Goldie Hawn as a socialite and Kurt Russell as working-class single father.

As ever Faris brings a wealth of charm and comic ability, and works well with Derbez, who is the one of the best known names in Latin American entertainment.

He plays the dashing and obnoxious Leonardo who lives on a super-yacht filled with bimbos and butlers, with Scots actor John Hannah cruising along as one of the latter.

Having insulted the hard working Kate, Leo later falls overboard drunk, and washes ashore with no memory.

This allows Kate to convince him they are married, enabling he to focus on her nursing exams while he goes out to work and looks after the housework and her three blonde daughters

The youngest two are ridiculously cute and the eldest is a suitably stroppy teen. Kate also enjoys an easy rapport with Eva Longoria, as her best friend, Theresa.

Though the story flounders early on, it finds it’s stroke and rhythm once Leonardo’s rehabilitation gets underway.

It’s all knowingly preposterous, and openly acknowledges its debt to the many appalling but hugely popular daytime Mexican soap operas.

And it’s not afraid to makes points about the extra unpaid domestic work women do after a hard day’s work.

As a wall is built between Mexico and the US in the real world, the film’s cross cultural love across the barricades borders on being a provocative political statement.

Although I was never swept away by the predictable romance and I wasn’t rolling in waves of laughter, it’s harmlessly enjoyable, appropriately forgettable, and a mild improvement on the original.

 

 

EVERY DAY

Cert 12A 97mins Stars 2

Once is more enough for this repetitive romantic fantasy which squanders its intriguing premise.

It’s a high-school riff on comedy classic Groundhog Day and TV’s Quantum Leap. But it fails to generate any humour or sustain our interest.

Australian actress Angourie Rice is confident and likeable as Rhiannon, a 16-year-old who falls in love with a spirit who wakes every day in a different person’s body.

They’re a nicely inclusive mix of gender and races, but the central idea of beauty being skin deep is challenged by the frequency with which her soul mate inhabits hot boys.

And Rice is hamstrung by having to play against a revolving door of opposite numbers. Nor is her character established beyond being generically sweet and caring, while subplots are conveniently resolved or forgotten.

Though Every Day captures the ability of teenagers to treat every event with absolute intensity, it sells its audience short by failing to turn the experience into a drama.

 

 

ATTRACTION

Cert 12A 117mins Stars 3

There’s a breathless lack of subtlety in this teen sci-fi romance which sees a high school girl have a close encounter in down town Moscow.

Riffing on Romeo and Juliet, star crossed lovers see their worlds collide when a giant alien spaceship is shot down.

Russian TV star Irina Starshenbaum makes her big screen debut as our heroine Yulia, and Rinal Mukhametov plays the alien object of her affections.

Yulia is sweet, sarcastic and sparky, almost singlehandedly giving life to a startlingly unoriginal script. She’s also considerably sharper than her father, the much put upon colonel in charge of protecting civilians from aliens, and vice versa.

The poor bloke is on much surer ground dealing with the potential destruction of planet Earth than teenage hormones. 

An innovative production method maximises the minimal budget, providing decent CGI for a fraction of the usual Hollywood cost. Along Yulia’s fresh faced energy, they’re the biggest selling point of this big screen attraction.

 

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Cert 15 132mins Stars 4

A summer of love has long lasting repercussions for a teenager in this coming out, coming of age romance.

Elegant, sincere, sensual and sensitive, it has two exceptional performances from Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer. The latter is all the more impressive as the actor is mostly famous for playing the Lone Ranger to Johnny Depp’s Tonto.

Chalamet plays Elio, an American-Italian Jewish 17-year-old. While spending his holidays in his parent’s Italian villa, he’s attracted to the presence of Hammer’s visiting 24-year-old American Jewish scholar.

Small gestures have huge significance, and as the pair edge towards each other they talk in coded language so as not to betray themselves.

Though much time is spent by the pool or playing volley ball, a key seduction scene involves the witty use of a piano.

Occasionally the pace is overly languid, however this does allow us to drown in the local texture and gorgeous locations.

THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US

Cert 12A 111mins Stars 4

Get hot under the collar as Kate Winslet and Idris Elba turn up the heat when stranded on an icy mountain.

In an era where actors are considered of less important to a film than its franchise brand, this survival adventure is refreshingly built around the chemistry, charisma, talent and global fame of its stars.

It’s especially welcome as both are British, though only one of them sports a US accent.

This unashamedly old fashioned and enjoyable romantic melodrama begins with an exciting and well staged crash, leaving the strangers high up The Rockie mountains in the depths of winter.

Though Winslet is not the only cougar around in the epic and beautifully bleak environment, there’s less cliff hanging than you’d expect as the script chooses to focus on developing the characters.

The only disappointment is Winslet never channels her inner Mae West and asks ‘is that a mountain between us or are you just pleased to see me?’