I Saw The Light

Director: Marc Abraham (2016)

This befuddled biopic sheds little light on the life of country music maestro Hank Williams.

It begins with a spine tingling rendition of his classic ‘Cold Cold Heart’, but it’s sadly all down hill from there.

Though the star of TV’s The Night Manager Tom Hiddleston sings his heart out, he chooses to hide his looks and charm under a cowboy hat. He does a decent of copy of Williams’ agitated crab stage gait.

By the time Williams died in 1953 at the tragically young age of 29, he had became one of the most influential singer songwriters of his time.

But you wouldn’t know that from the episodic and jumbled narrative given to us here.

We first meet Hank when he’s already enjoying a degree of success with his band and a regular slot on local radio. He has ambitions to appear on The Grand Ole Opry, the number one TV destination for country singers.

An impetuous, tempestuous, immoral, feckless,unreliable husband father and artist, the narrative is a familiar rock biography checklist of an alcohol fuelled career slide as he loses gigs, wives and friends.

But it’s presented full of leaps, detours and evasions, offering random snapshots of his life instead of a coherent story.

We’re spoon fed a brief resume of his success at the end, but it’s provided without context and leaves us with no greater understanding of his importance to country music or wider cultural impact or degree of success.

The classic songs Williams wrote such as ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’ are short changed.

And so are the women. They’re presented as grasping and fertile while Hank takes no responsibility for his own behaviour.

Elizabeth Olsen is a determined presence as his wife Audrey, but is portrayed as a humourless self serving money grabber.

Except for Hiddleston the performers don’t seem to be enjoying themselves, and I didn’t either.


Diretor: Ben Wheatley (2016)

This towering cinematic achievement offers the audience a dark view of modern life.

British director Ben Wheatley brings to J.G. Ballard’s 1975 blood soaked satirical sci fi novel vividly to life.

With The Kill List (2011) Sightseers (2012) and A Field In England (2013) under his belt, he has the most singular vision of any British director working today.

Aided by his scriptwriter and wife Amy Jump, Wheatley has erected another uniquely English construction of comedy, horror, politics, sex and violence.

Currently starring in TV’s The Night Manager, Tom Hiddleston is hugely impressive as Dr. Robert Laing.

He’s just moved into a skyscraper and is determined to fit in to the rigid social hierarchy.

Living in the penthouse with his nostalgia obsessed wife and her private menagerie is the pointedly named Anthony Royal.

It’s another intelligent performance from Jeremy Irons. The buildings architect a godlike figure who can’t understand the free will of the chaotic people who populate his creation.

Royal believes he has left one crucial ingredient out of his building, but he hasn’t taken account of the effect of the building on the people who live there.

Laing has a short lived affair with the single mother who lives on the floor above. As the seductive and brittle Charlotte, Sienna Miller relishes the opportunity offered by the role to essay a complex character and delivers a strong and memorable performance.

Luke Evans and Elisabeth Moss as the fertile working class couple on a lower floor are among the strong supporting cast.

As it’s cutting edge 1970’s technology fails, the high-rise deteriorates and Laing starts to suffer a nervous breakdown.

While the penthouse hosts regency themed cocktail parties and swingers accumulate on the shag pile rug, the poor are blamed for their own misfortunes.

There are riots in the supermarket and violent class war descends into animal behaviour.

Styled in the 1970’s the decade the book was written, it’s a concrete, plastic and polythene world dressed in lurid shades of nylon sportswear.

The concept of recycling is in the future, nature is absent or seen as polluting, a hindrance, and a threat. Organic matter is something to be fenced off, bagged up and removed.

A smart script, great design, excellent performances and brilliant use of music combine in powerful critique of social engineering.

Although containing many ideas which are prescient, the power cuts, bodies and bin bags piling up are powerful reminders of headlines of the decade but the historical relevance may need explaining to a younger audience.

But seen from a distance, none of this undermines the soaring strength of the storytelling technique.



Crimson Peak

Director: Guillermo del Toro (2015)

This lavishly stylised and violent fairytale splashes around buckets of blood but is sadly anaemic.

Inspired by the Hammer House of Horror films, the period sets and costumes are fantastic though the story is predictable and lacks bite.

It begins as a sumptuous and intriguing gothic romance bubbling with ideas, filtered through the director’s usual motifs of steampunk contraptions and ladies of letters.

But once the story leads to bleak estate in the north of England where red clay oozes from the mansion’s every pore, proceedings become bogged down in sticky CGI.

There’s a workshop in the tower, many doors are locked and Edith is warned not to go down to the cellar.

it all sadly ends with all the suspense of a steroid-filled episode of Scooby Doo. But without any of the fun.

Talented Mia Wasikowska is at her insipid worst as young heiress Edith Cushing who follows her new husband Sir Thomas Sharpe to his crumbling gothic pile.

The baronet is pallid, impoverished and played in impeccable black by the devilishly charming Tom Hiddleston.

The pair played vampiric siblings in the superior Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) in which they vividly essayed far more interesting characters.

Here Jessica Chastain plays Hiddleston’s screen sister who keeps her brother’s best interests close to her heart. With barking intense piano playing and a choice wardrobe, she dominates her every scene.

An anonymous Charlie Hunnam plays a lovelorn ophthalmologist left looking for clues, probably as to where any sense of mystery or danger is.