Director: (2016) BBFC cert: 15

This head bangingly dull melodrama is a poor advert for author Phillip Roth from whose novel it’s adapted. The flat lead performances, self-obsessed characters and clunky direction make for a very testing experience.

As is so often the case in literary adaptions, the presence of a voice over is an early indicator of the ineffective transition from page to screen which follows.

Marcus is a working-class Jewish student who dodges the 1951 Korean war army draft by enrolling in a prestigious Ohio college. Refusing to socialise with his peers he obsesses over the beautiful Olivia, an outwardly confident soul from a wealthy family. Logan Lerman and Sarah Gadon are a handsome couple but can’t find a way to make their characters sympathetic.

The only memorable scene is a lengthy interrogation by the Dean. This is a character whom we’re supposed to reject for his persecution of Marcus, but instead embrace for his patience, charm and humour. It’s an enjoyably human performance by Tracy Letts.

The cyclical script explores how society  applies brutal punishments to those who challenge conformity. After enduring two hours of this wearying philosophising, I was was more than justified in my own indignation.



A Royal Night Out

Director: Julian Jarrold (2015)

A pair of incognito princesses roll out the barrel and celebrate VE Day among their unsuspecting subjects in this entertainingly light-hearted fictional romp.

It’s the evening of 8th May 1945 and the UK is having a right royal knees up. Heir to the throne Princess Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) and younger sister Margaret (Bel Powley) are determined to join in the fun they can see from their palace window.

Their plan is drop in on the festivities in Trafalgar Square and head on to The Curzon Club before an crashing all night party at Chelsea barracks.

Margaret is the more wayward, wilful and ditzy of the two and happy to lead Elizabeth astray. In a switch from real-life, Margaret is presented as the more dowdy when compared to the raging beauty of Elizabeth.

It’s a lovely and lively comic performance by Powley who gives it plenty of royal welly. Gadon is ravishingly bewildered as her big sister.

There’s more than a hint of Cinderella and The Prince and the Pauper and it’s played with the infectious feel-good energy and saucy innocence of the original St Trinians movies.

Among much enthusiastic flag waving, fisticuffs and spiked drinks, there’s a pair of engaging central performances, some choice period dialogue, all manner of alarming accents and Glen Miller on the soundtrack.

Julian Jarrold has form with quality period drama having previously directed Great Expectations (1999) Becoming Jane (2007) Brideshead Revisited (2008). With energy and an eye for detail he convincingly recreates the foggy demob-happy delirium of the sepia-tinged era.

Sipping champagne and slipping their chaperones, the girls head to the teeming Trafalgar Square and adopt the names ‘Lizzie’ and ‘Mags’  – perhaps not travelling as incognito as they imagine.

Soon separated by the throng of celebrants, Lizzie must locate Mags and return her to the palace before midnight and the king realises they are missing.

The stammering King George VI is played by Rupert Everett haunted at every turn by Colin Firth‘s Oscar-winning role as the same character in The King’s Speech (2010). Everett also appeared in the successful if lacklustre St Trinians remakes.

His screen wife Queen Elizabeth the Queen mother is played by Emily Watson.

Unsure of her way around and naturally not carrying any cash, Lizzie falls in with a hunky working class airman called Jack (Jack Reynor).

She coyly persuades him to help her in her mission and he reluctantly agrees – even though her cloistered worldview keeps landing her republican-leaning would-be saviour in trouble.

Among the characters they encounter in the gambling dens and knocking shops of Soho are royalist gangsters, Scottish henchmen and warm-hearted whores. The British officers are weak-chinned, drunk, philandering incompetents – which seems fair enough.

If I ever thought the royals were this much fun in real life I’d almost consider voting for them.


dir. Denis Villeneuve

Fantasy, identity and memory are twisted in this dark, expressionist, psychological thriller.

Sly and finely-crafted, it is based on José Saramago’s 2002 novel The Double.

There’s minimal dialogue and a mournful soundtrack while the absence of clocks and times add to the alienating atmosphere and contribute to a memorable finale.

After a chance conversation, history professor Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) is caught in an opaque web of intrigue, mistrust and betrayal.

Stuck in a failing relationship with the beautiful Mary (Mélanie Laurent) Adam is a listless drone with a life of dull routine, failing to inspire his bored students with his lectures on the political denial of self expression.

Only his mother, Isabella Rossellini is concerned or interested in him, leaving voice mails he doesn’t respond to.

One day a casual exchange with a nameless colleague leads Adam to watching a locally filmed movie ‘Where There’s a Will There’s a way’.

It’s a colourful comedy, disturbing the Enemy’s carefully established austere mood. In the background Adam sees a bellboy, played by an actor who looks uncannily similar to himself.

Intrigued, Adam discovers he’s called Anthony Saint Claire (Gyllenhaal again) and hunts down his other movie appearances.

Anthony is signed to a local agency and when Adam visits their offices he’s mistaken for his doppelganger, exploiting the mistake to pick up a parcel intended for the actor.

Behaving like an excited stalker, Adam instigates a meeting with Anthony which develops into a confrontation.

They’re physically identical but different in attitude, lifestyle and crucially in relationships. Anthony’s pregnant wife Helen (Sarah Gadon) is suspicious of her husband – with very good reason.

With deft deliberation Nicolas Bolduc’s camera follows as character stalks character, capturing scenes in unhealthy yellow register and bold shadows.

Architecture is an oppressive character while cars are cocoons for their faceless, voiceless commuters as they drive around the stark cityscape.

Gyllenhaal’s character is a memorable addition to the cinematic gallery of actors portraying identical characters on screen, joining luminaries such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, even Elvis has done it

Made in 2013 it’s released now to capitalise on the success of Gyllenhaal’s excellent movie Nightcrawler.

It’s hard to believe the same creative team of Gyllenhaal and Villeneuve who made this were also responsible for 2013’s preposterous  thriller, Prisoners.