Tag: Nicole Kidman

Paddington (2014)

Paddington (2014)

Michael Bond’s lovable bear makes an almost perfect screen-transition in this heart-warming tale

Director: Paul King

Cast: Ben Whishaw (Paddington Bear), Hugh Bonneville (Henry Brown), Sally Hawkins (Mary Brown), Madeleine Harris (Judy Brown), Samuel Joslin (Jonathan Brown), Julie Walters (Mrs Bird), Nicole Kidman (Millicent Clyde), Peter Capaldi (Mr Curry), Jim Broadbent (Samuel Gruber), Imelda Staunton (Aunt Lucy), Michael Gambon (Uncle Pastuzo), Tim Downie (Montgomery Clyde)

If there is one thing we need in troubled times, it’s kindness. Few characters are as overflowing with warmth and decency as Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear. First introduced in 1958, the lovable marmalade-consuming little bear all the way from darkest Peru is never anything less than kind and decent – even as the well-meaning bear gets himself into a string of catastrophes.

Paddington is one of the most universally beloved figures from post-War British culture – surely no surprise he was the perfect tea-party guest for that other beloved icon of the same period, the Queen. The pressure was on for a Paddington film – could it match the tone of the books? The answer was an over-whelming yes. Paddington is an endlessly heart-warming triumph, which it is impossible to watch without a warm glow building inside you, and a goofy smile on your face.

Explorer (Tim Downie) discovers a species of intelligent, marmalade-loving bears in darkest Peru. Forty years later, after a terrible earthquake, a young bear travels to find a new home in London. He meets the Brown family – overly cautious father Henry (Hugh Bonneville), caring Mary (Sally Hawkins) and their children Judy (Madeline Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) – who take him into their home and name him Paddington after the train station where they found him (his bear name being unpronounceable). Paddington (Ben Whishaw) works hard to settle in with his new hosts – but danger looms from an ambitious Natural History Museum taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) who longs to make Paddington the centrepiece of her collection.

Directed with a great deal of unobtrusive flair by Paul King, Paddington is a truly endearing film about the triumph of opening your heart to strangers. The Brown family don’t realise it, but they are in need of a burst of kindness in their lives to help bring them together. They get it in spades with Paddington. The film captures perfectly the little bear’s personality. This is Paddington exactly as you remember him: polite, decent, kind and hilariously accident-prone. King’s film also gets the tone exactly right – there are no pop-culture references or rude gags (although there are a few subtle double-entendres of a sort) and the film is set in a timeless mix of 1950s London and today.

The film’s CGI Paddington is gorgeously designed – a wonderful rendering of the bear’s appearance tailored with more realistic fur, but still the same as the book– and perfectly voiced by Ben Whishaw. Whishaw was a late replacement – Colin Firth voluntarily withdrew, as he felt his voice was ill-matched to this naïve, gentle young bear – but his light and gentle tones convey all the warmth you need. It’s a superb performance, humane, kind and deeply funny, and so well suited you suddenly realise in your head Paddington always sounded like this.

King creates a series of gorgeously handled set-pieces to showcase Paddington’s possibilities for well-intentioned mayhem. On his first night in the Brown household, he duels with toothbrushes, mouthwash, toilet flushes and showers, culminating in flooding their bathroom with a swimming pool’s worth of water. He gets mummified in sellotape, slips up in the kitchen and causes several marmalade-sandwich involved disasters (most hilariously a marmalade baguette-pneumatic tube mix-up). But he always means well: a caper-filled set-piece through the London streets sees Paddington finally collide with a man he’s trying to return a dropped wallet too – allowing someone we’ve known all along to be a pickpocket to be apprehended by the police.

The Brown family’s home – already a beautifully designed dolls-house made real, with a tree blossom mural that changes to reflect the mood of the scene – comes to life with Paddington in it. (Watch how the colours of their clothing change depending on how much Paddington is part of the family or not). Mary (a wonderfully warm Sally Hawkins) is already eager for him to stay. Judy and Jonathan (superbly sparky performances from Madeline Harris and Samuel Joslin) are quickly won over by him. It’s only Mr Brown – a performance of perfectly judged fussy, pinickity, rule-bound caution and stuffiness by Hugh Bonneville which flourishes into something warmer – who is unsure. But then this is a man so obsessed with his risk analysis job, he prevents his children from doing anything (34% of all childhood accidents happen on the stairs!) and has forgotten how to have fun.

Watching Mr Brown slowly warm to Paddington is a huge part of the film’s charm and warmth. Who could imagine the man who tries to leave him at the train station (and urge his family not to catch the bear’s eye, muttering “stranger danger”) would later be dressing up as a Scottish cleaning woman to help him infiltrate the Geographer’s Guild building? (This sequence is a little comic physical and verbal tour-de-force Bonneville.) It’s a larger part of the film’s wider – and most rewarding – message: the importance of treating migrants to this country with respect and care.

The pro-migration message is throughout the film – and the film is a fabulous reminder to many of what we have gained from those who have come to this land from across the seas, from NHS staff to political leaders to entertainers. Paddington’s journey to London – in a small boat, then sneaking past customs – is all-too-familiar.  Next door neighbour Mr Curry (a comically ingratiating Peter Capaldi) voices many of the “concerns” of anti-immigrant communities (let one bear in and who knows how many will follow?). Even Mr Brown voices worries about bears telling you sob stories to win your trust. The important message here is the value migrants bring us. A recurring calypso band reminds us of parallels with the Windrush generation. It’s not spoken but Jim Broadbent’s antique shop owner’s accent and memories of arriving on a train in London as a child clearly mark him as a Kindertransport child. Paddington has a subtle and truly important message for people: when we open our arms to people, we gain as much as they from the exchange.

Paddington throws in a few moments of darkness: the shock death of Uncle Patuszo is surprisingly affecting and Nicole Kidman’s taxidermist is possibly the scariest villain you’ll see in a kid’s film this side of the child catcher. But in some ways this enhances the warmth even further. By the film’s end you’ll feel your own life has been enriched by the small bear’s presence as much as the Brown’s has. We need him in times like this.

The Northman (2022)

The Northman (2022)

A viking tears through flesh and blood in quest for revenge in this bizarre, fascinating Viking epic

Director: Robert Eggers

Cast: Alexander Skarsgård (Amleth), Nicole Kidman (Queen Gudrún), Claes Bang (Fjölnir the Brotherless), Anya Taylor-Joy (Olga of the Birch Forest), Ethan Hawke (King Aurvandill War-Raven), Björk (The Seeress), Willem Dafoe (Heimir), Oscar Novak (Young Amleth), Gustav Lindh (Thorir), Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson (He-Witch), Kate Dickie (Halldora), Ralph Ineson (Captain Volodymyr)

Ask people about Hamlet, and they picture a poetic Prince, plagued with doubt and vulnerability, talking to skulls rather than carrying out his mission of revenge. What you probably don’t think about are Vikings on a Berserker rage, slaughtering left, right and centre. But Hamlet has its roots in a bloody Scandinavian legend, where remorseless death is handed out by a ruthless killer. That’s the side of Hamlet, Eggers takes for inspiration in his bloody, bold and resolute Viking film, a blood-soaked acid trip it’s hard to imagine anyone else making.

It’s 895 and King Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke) returns from conquest to his wife Gudrún (Nicole Kidman) and young son Amleth (Oscar Novak). Amleth takes his vows of manhood with his father, guided by a demented He-witch (Willem Dafoe) – only for his father to be almost immediately killed by his half-brother Fjölnir (Claes Bangs), who seizes his throne and wife. Amleth escapes – and years later has grown into a berserker Viking warrior (and Alexander Skarsgård). He sees his chance for revenge when he disguises himself as a slave, and joins a shipment traveling to Fjölnir’s village (Fjölnir having lost his throne). There he forms an alliance with Russian slave Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) and works to undermine and terrify Fjölnir, before he can enact his revenge and save his mother.

The Northman is, possibly above all, a shocking, absorbing deep-dive into Viking Culture. Eggers doesn’t shirk for a second from the bloody, ruthless mayhem of Viking life. Our introduction to the adult Amleth sees him first whipping himself (and others) into a (possibly magic mushroom fuelled) Berserker rage, dressed as wolves and howling at the fireside, before launching an unbelievably ruthless attack on a Russian village. The desperate peasants are butchered with savage fury (and blood lust). In the aftermath, rape, murder and other horrors occur uncommented on in the background, while those not seen fit for slavery are herded into a barn to be casually burned alive.

Amleth, at no point, expresses a jot of regret for his actions (as a Viking wouldn’t), and even after passing for a slave never questions the institution. His revenge uses the same ruthless, blood-dripping fury as his ravaging and his only passing moment of pause is about directly killing Viking women and children (he gets over it). In all this he is in no way different from the rest – in fact he’s even one of the more sympathetic – Vikings. Fjölnir – revealed as otherwise a wise and generous leader – ruthlessly murders and rapes his slave as he fancies and a weekend’s entertainment for all is watching two teams of slaves beat themselves to death in a no-holds-barred version of hockey.

Eggers leaves you in no doubt that, for all the grim fascination, this is a brutal and savage civilisation that you would in no way want to encounter. Saying that, despite Eggers’ clear intentions, with the film’s cast modelling a sort of chiselled, gym-trained super-human Aryanism, sweeping away Slavic peasants and enforcing a triumph of Nordic culture, parts of this film are surely being channelled into the wet dreams of elements of the right-wing.

The film doesn’t just explore violence. Family bonds are demonstrated to be all important to Vikings – Amleth and Fjölnir are dedicated to their families and go to huge ends to protect and mourn them. (A funeral of one warrior features elaborate blood-letting, as the deceased’s horse is decapitated and his favourite slave willingly butchered so both can join him on the journey to the afterlife). There is a mutual regard and affection between warriors – even opponents – in a culture that puts itself above others. Honoured slaves are respected – though told they can never be equal. Licensed fools and mystics are given a great deal of freedom – Willem Dafoe’s crazed He-witch at Aurvandill’s court mocks all and sundry with no repercussions. There is a huge faith placed in wise men and women who inspire awe and fear – even a slave, such as Olga, with possible mystic powers is treated with caution. Bonds and duties across generations and to the next life are revered. Prophecies and destinies are respected. Poetry and storytelling is highly valued.

For all the killing, there are elements of a rich culture here and strong family bonds. All these combine in the person of Amleth, who will not be shaken from his destiny but will enact it in his own time, in line with the prophecies he of a seeress (an unrecognisable Björk). Eventually it doesn’t matter if Amleth’s idealised memory of his parents turns out to be not the whole story, or if he has a chance to build a new life. Destiny is, in fact, all.

Eggers’ film takes place in what almost a state of heightened, fevered excitement. Beautifully shot by Jarin Blaschke, it mixes expressionistic near-black-and-white, with drained-out shots of violence and flame-lit moments of psychological and body horror. Visions shot in a piercing mix of blues, greys and icey chilliness puncture the film, with strange compositions of characters, Valkyries, Valhalla and the Gods. Supernatural elements pepper the film, with Amleth’s father influencing events in the shape of a raven and Amleth completing a quest for a fateful sword. These moments of hyper-reality are perfectly executed and in a visually unique, blood-drenched nightmare.

Where The Northman is less successful is exploring the inner-depth of its characters. Skarsgård is charismatic and physically perfect, but doesn’t give much inner-life to Amleth. Moments of doubt or uncertainty in Amleth never quite convince and he feels more a force of nature than a person. There are richer performances from others, Kidman in particular a revelation as a cryptic, unknowable woman with a mid-film encounter of heightened emotional (and sexual) tension between her Skarsgård. Bangs’ Fjölnir is strangely sympathetic. Anya Taylor-Joy carries a dominant, mystical force in her performance that helps make her character a bridge between multiple worlds.

All these combine into a film of shocking violence, jaw-dropping beauty and troubling emotional and psychological horror. There is no doubt the film is overlong – there are probably one too many deeply odd segues into drug-induced ravings of various prophets and seers – but as an exploration of a culture so uniquely alien, its sublime. As a piece of work from a truly distinctive and unmatchable director, it’s superb. You look it The Northman and can’t believe anyone else could have made it. If nothing else, that makes it a film worthy of your time.

Being the Ricardos (2021)

Being the Ricardos (2021)

I Love Lucy is bought to life in this behind-the-scenes drama that bites off more than it can chew

Director: Aaron Sorkin

Cast: Nicole Kidman (Lucille Ball), Javier Bardem (Desi Arnaz), JK Simmons (William Frawley), Nina Arianda (Vivian Vance), Tony Hale (Jess Oppenheimer), Alia Shawkat (Madelyn Pugh), Jake Lacy (Bob Carroll), Clark Gregg (Howard Wenke), John Rubenstein (Older Jess Oppenheimer), Linda Lavin (Older Madelyn Pugh), Ronny Cox (Older Bob Carroll)

A film about I Love Lucy is always going to lack cultural cache outside of the US: it would be the same if a British film about Dad’s Army or Hancock’s Half Hour played there. Without a legacy of growing up on endless re-runs, I think a lot of British audiences (like me) will be left playing catch-up working out who the stars are and what the show is about.

Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos follows one week in the making of I Love Lucy in 1952. It’s a big week. There are rumours of infidelity (from him) in the lives of the married co-stars Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem). On top of that, the media is running stories that Ball is a card-carrying communist (not completely true). And finally, she’s pregnant, something the network can’t imagine would be acceptable to include in a family show. All these problems come to a head as that week’s show is finalised, rehearsed and shot.

Sorkin’s film is by far and away at its best when dealing with the backstage mechanics behind bringing a TV show to the screen. Which perhaps isn’t a surprise, as that is obviously material he’s very familiar with. The film is fascinating at showing the technical side of things like rehearsals, and it’s very illuminating on the dedicated perfectionism Ball bought to making the comedy work. We see every single gag being worked on over and over to mine the maximum number of laughs from it. There are long back and forth conversations on timing, positioning and nuances of line delivery.

There are similarly fascinating ideas during scenes in the writers’ room. A huge board maps out the details of future episodes. The writers – a neatly squabbling but fundamentally loyal Alia Shawkat and Jake Lacy, headed up by executive producer Tony Hale – are constantly pushed to fine-tune their ideas, while passionately defending many of their own jokes to the sceptical stars.

A sequence essentially showing Ball and the writers spit-balling ideas that will develop into future set-pieces is particularly well done. Sorkin also comes up with a neat visual concept showing how Ball considers the impact of the gags: events from the show play out in black-and-white then switch to colour as the action pauses and Ball considers what to do next to get the most laughs. It’s all part of the film’s primary strength: a fascinating look at the energy and passion required to produce a half-hour sitcom, be it arguing over camera placement to a sleepless and worried Ball calling her co-stars to the studio in the wee small hours to fine-tune a pratfall.

Where the film is less certain is all the other stuff it tries to cover. Being the Ricardos is almost the dictionary definition of a film biting off more than it can chew. It tries to cover: the making of a TV show, McCarthyism, a biography of the marriage of the two stars, the sexism of network TV, racial unease at the Cuban Arnaz playing Ball’s husband, the sexual prudishness of the 1950s, and expectations around gender roles. On top of which, Sorkin’s film trumpets continuously that this was the “most difficult week ever”. It’s an onslaught of stakes the film finds hard to deliver on.

For starters, most of the action focuses on the mechanics of making the show – mechanics that surely would be the same every week. The communist plotline is introduced then largely dropped for most of the film until the final rousing hurrah. McCarthyism is barely tackled, other than a new perspective from Arnaz, who remembers being forcibly driven from Cuba by Communists. Awkward flashbacks fill in some of the backstory around Lucille and Desi’s meeting but end up feeling like superfluous additional information that adds nothing to anything other than the runtime.

Tensions in their marriage bubble away before finally coming to a head, as if Sorkin didn’t want to spoil the rat-a-tat dialogue with some deeper content. The film is very good at showing what a great team they made: Ball’s creativity and comic genius matched with Arnaz’s business-sense and ability to plan every aspect of the show’s technical and financial set-up. But again, more could have been made of this – too often it’s an idea crowded in amongst others, with a tone that can’t decide how it feels about Arnaz’s possible betrayal or Ball’s fixation on it.

More could have been made about the prudish and sexist struggles Ball and Arnaz went through to get her pregnancy integrated in the show. It’s a fascinating realisation that the implication that a happily married couple must have had sex to produce a baby was anathema to TV networks in the 50s. A film that focused on the battle to get this integrated into the show – and the impact that doing so had on America and television – would not only have been more focused, it would also have played into the film’s real strengths: the mechanics of actually making television. As it is, this sense of the struggle Ball had to get due recognition in a male-dominated industry is lost.

As the two stars Nicole Kidman (under layers of latex to transform her facial features into Ball’s) and Bardem are very good, Kidman in particular brilliantly conveying Ball’s comedic genius as well as her self-doubt and insecurity, expressing itself in worries about her marriage to making sure her female co-star looks less attractive than her on the screen. Kidman pounces on Sorkin’s fast-paced dialogue and provides much of the film’s drive and focus. There are also neat supporting turns by JK Simmons and especially Nina Arianda as their co-stars.

In the end though, yet again, it feels like Sorkin the writer is ill-served by Sorkin the director. While the film is more sharply directed than his others, it lacks focus, discipline and drive, like Sorkin can’t bear the idea of cutting some of his own words and ideas so tries to include them all. It ends up meaning nearly all of them lack the impact they should have.

Aquaman (2018)

Jason Momoa takes himself rather seriously in the deeply silly Aquaman

Director: James Wan

Cast: Jason Momoa (Arthur Curry/Aquaman), Amber Heard (Mera), Willem Dafoe (Nuidis Vulko), Patrick Wilson (Orm Marius), Dolph Lundgren (King Nereus), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (David Kane/Black Manta), Ludi Lin (Captain Murk), Temuera Morrison (Thomas Curry), Nicole Kidman (Queen Atlanna), Micheal Beach (Jesse Kane), Julie Andrews (Karathen)

After helping the rest of the Justice League save the world Arthur Curry aka Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is quite the celebrity. Curry is the son of lighthouse keeper Thomas (Temuera Morrison) and Atlantian Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), who fled her unloved husband and his underwater kingdom but was recaptured when Arthur was young. Her other son Orm (Patrick Wilson) is now King of Atlantis, planning to lead the forces of the sea in a war against those on land. Can Arthur and Orm’s unwilling betrothed Mera (Amber Heard) combine to prevent a war? And will Arthur become a worthy hero?

Aquaman makes a valiant effort to embrace perhaps the silliest set-up for a comic book novel yet. Based around a massive, technologically advanced underwater kingdom that has (inexplicably) remained silent and secret for thousands of years, who inhabitants all seem to have superhuman strength and magical skills (guess it must be all that water pressure), the film at times is hard to take seriously. But it sort of gets away with it, as Wan leans into the tongue-in-cheek campness of all this (and I’m amazed how camp these Atlantians are) and asks us not to take anything we see that seriously, but just to sit back and enjoy the ride.

And the film is basically just a big ride, as we travel from place-to-place and watch Aquaman hit things in various under-water and above ground locations, while keeping up a bit of rapid-fire banter that will flower (but of course!) into an opposites-attract romance with Mera. One thing Wan does very well is to find a way to present the various fights in a style I’ve not seen before. The showpiece one-on-ones take place in a series of incredibly smooth one-shots, which twist and glide around our heroes while they despatch countless foes and, in one impressive show-piece, in and out and across buildings during a fight in an Italian cliff-side town. The ending may be your typical CGI smackdown, but Wan’s presents the fights in a way that actually looks different and excites a bit of awe.

Where the film is less successful is in its slightly tired coming-of-age/proving-his-worth/resolving-his-loss storyline, which offers few surprises. Try as I might, I can’t find Jason Momoa a charming enough actor to effectively make me invest in his character. Compare him to Dwayne Johnson, who is always willing to laugh at himself and is the very embodiment of charming self-awareness. Momoa takes himself very seriously – he always needs to be the coolest guy in the room – and his air of cocky self-importance sometimes jars in a film as dopey as this one.

This also means the film fails to sell a real plot arc for Aquaman himself. Its nominally about a character learning to acknowledge his mistakes, vulnerability and inability to go-it-alone. This doesn’t always feel earned and sometimes emotionally confused. One of Aquaman’s earliest acts is to let the ruthless father of a hijacker (a scowlingly charismatic Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) drown. Later he expresses regret for doing this as, by making an enemy, he endangered Mera. Not regret because it was wrong to let the man die, but a sociopathic concern for his loved ones rather than someone else’s. The character’s growth never really convinces – he still seems like the same cocky maverick at the end than he was at the beginning, rather than someone who has matured into a real leader.

But aside from these doubts, this is a big silly pantomime pretty much told with the right balance between seriousness and tongue-in-cheek. Amber Heard mixes heroism with a dopey, flower-eating sweetness as Mera. Willem Dafoe constantly looks like he’s about to snigger as a wetsuit glad Grand Vizier. There is something rather lovable about a film so eclectic in its cast that Julie Andrews (of all people) voices a sea monster and Dolph Lundgren tackles King Nereus like it’s his shot at Macbeth.

Bangs, booms and few jokes carry us through a deeply silly but enjoyable film. There is a great deal of visual imagination for the sea kingdoms, a mix of Greek inspired nonsense and space-ship bombast. Wan pretty much throws the kitchen sink at the screen, and while it’s definitely rather too long it’s also bubbling with just as much tongue-in-cheek fun that you roll with it. Nothing here reinvents the wheel – and the plot often feels like a rather clumsy after-thought – but it’s still an entertaining wheel.

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor make a love story for the ages in Luhrmann’s electric Moulin Rouge!

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Cast: Nicole Kidman (Satine), Ewan McGregor (Christian), Jim Broadbent (Harold Zidler), Richard Roxburgh (Duke of Monroth), John Leguizamo (Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec), Jacek Koman (The Unconscious Argentinian), Caroline O’Connor (Nini), Kerry Walker (Marie), David Wenham (Audrey)

It’s 20 years old now and I still don’t think there has been anything quite like Moulin Rouge! Believe me it’s not for want of trying. Baz Luhrmann’s hugely inventive, uniquely stylistic musical is cinematic marmite: either loved or reviled (not sure I’ve ever met anyone who had a meh attitude to it). One of the pioneering inventors of the juke-box musical, Moulin Rouge! mixes pop songs with inspiration from opera to Greek myth and comes up with something Spectacular, Spectacular.

It’s the turn of the century, and Christian (Ewan McGregor) arrives in Paris looking for truth, inspiration and above all: love. Arriving at Montmartre, he and courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman) fall in love. Satine is the star at Harold Zidler’s (Jim Broadbent) Moulin Rouge and also the star of Zidler’s planned stage show. She has been promised to his wealthy backer the Duke (Richard Roxburgh). With Christian commissioned to write the script, can he and Satine hide their love from the Duke and make sure the Show Goes On? Or will tragedy strike?

Fast paced and electric, Moulin Rouge! could inspire motion sickness, especially in its opening 15 minutes which throw us deep into its unconventional medley of styles, tones and inspirations. Did that first 15 minutes lose a lot of people? You can imagine it as the earliest scenes featuring Christian’s meeting with Toulouse-Lautrec and the other Bohemians are by far its weakest. If your irritation grows at these shrill scenes (crudely over-acted with an overbearing Keaton-ish energy), I can well imagine thousands of viewers checked out in Luhrmann’s music inspired Moulin Rouge can-can musical with its explosion of rap, Nirvana, Lady Marmalade and insanely quick cutting. It’s a statement opening – and throws you straight into its heightened reality. A tone that continues for much of the opening 40 minutes.

Luhrmann leaves nothing in the locker room here. Only a director of such exuberance, playfulness – but also deep skill and understanding of high and low culture – could have balanced it as well as he does. Go with it and you’ll love it. It’s pure operatic entertainment. Luhrmann’s master-stroke is to shoot a period musical in the style of the high-velocity music-video pop that excited people in 2001 – finally you get a sense of why the Moulin Rouge and can-can seemed so exciting and sexy back then. It’s a night-club of 1999, thrown into 1899.

But what makes the film work after that initial explosion of energy – and I’ll agree that the first 15 minutes tries too hard to grab your attention – is that Luhrmann mixes the styles up so effectively. There is everything here, from Busby Berkeley numbers to heartfelt love ballads to dreamy duets to a sexual tango to a classic theatrical set-piece, tinged with a spot of tragedy. Every musical number seems inspired by a different genre and style of musical theatre. And the use of modern pop music is fun, entertaining and mines the emotional connection we all feel for the best pop songs.

It’s an MTV pop musical, mixed with Gene Kelly, lashes of camp, cheeky humour and finally tragedy and suffering. It’s got a million cuts in it, but Luhrmann successfully makes the film darker, slower and more intimate as the film progresses. From the electric dynamism of the opening, this becomes an increasingly personal tragedy revolving around five key characters. It never loses that sense of showmanship – Zidler’s planned production is an overblown Bollywood inspired extravaganza that delights in recreating the joy and brashness of that genre – but the final hour is a more adult, foreboding movie with plenty of heart.

Moulin Rouge! is all about Luhrmann’s gadfly brilliance to discover inspiration from a host of sources, pulling it together into something brilliantly original, from the plot – which is inspired by La Boheme by way of Orpheus and Eurydice – to brilliant montage songs like the Elephant Love Song Medley, which takes snippets from nearly every popular love song you’ve ever heard. Very few films can switch so effortlessly from cheeky, end-of-the-pier humour to gut-wrenching tragedy. It’s energy effectively and brilliantly applied, and that comes from the director (who was, of course, inexplicably not among the films eight Oscar nominations).

Luhrmann also gets the actors to perform with the sort of energetic, fully-committed exuberance the film needs. The principals go at every single scene with no hesitations at all – bless them, none have any concern with appearing silly at all. McGregor reveals a sweetness and earnestness (as well as very strong singing voice) he hadn’t shown before. Kidman was an absolute revelation as a woman hiding doubt, insecurity and fear under an exterior of pure confidence. Broadbent’s comedic brilliance is matched with his dramatic flair. Roxburgh is hilarious, and also vile, as the selfish Duke. Luhrmann recognises their strength – after the first 10 minutes every scene features at least two of these performers.

Things have clearly been cut here and there. Motivations and even characterisations of some of the other members of the Moulin Rouge troupe change from scene-to-scene. Sometimes it tries too hard to be inventive. But it works so often that it hardly matters. And the remixes of the songs for performance are outstanding. The “Like a Virgin” Busby Berkely number is hilarious, the “Roxanne Tango” breath-takingly influential. “The Show Must Go On” is powerfully doom-laden and “Your Song” beautifully romantic. “Come What May” – the only original number – is an iconic ballad.

There’s not been anything quite like Moulin Rouge! – and Luhrmann has never managed to match it again since. Electric, dynamic, exciting, heartfelt, moving and above all extremely joyful, it has some brilliantly judged performances from its lead actors. There hasn’t been anything like it since – and I’m pretty sure we won’t see it’s like again.

The Beguiled (2017)

Nicole Kidman struggles to resist the charms of Colin Farrell in The Beguiled

Director: Sofia Coppola

Cast: Nicole Kidman (Miss Martha), Kirsten Dunst (Edwina), Elle Fanning (Alicia), Colin Farrell (Corporal McBurney), Oona Laurence (Amy), Angourie Rice (Jane), Addison Riecke (Marie), Emma Howard (Emily)

A remake of Don Siegel’s adaptation of the original novel, The Beguiled throws a feminist slant on a story of a confederate soldier, Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell) who, in the later years of the Civil War, is found injured in the grounds of a girl’s school, where the women have continued to run the operation while the menfolk are consumed with (and by) the war. The school is run by the distant Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman), with the lead teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) and five students of varying ages. All of the girls and women find themselves entranced (beguiled!) with the deceptively gentlemanly McBurney, whose true aims may be darker than assumed.

Sofia Coppola’s version of the story shifts the attention onto the women of the piece, and their plight and emotional journeys. This is a perfectly legitimate stance to take – and showing effectively a colony of girls and women in the 1860s living some sort of structured commune life is interesting and different – but Coppola’s film has a coolness and distance to it that ironically makes it far less than beguiling than it should be.

Beautifully filmed as the film is, it’s slow pace and meditative tone – as well as the rather obvious points it seems determined to make about male and female relations – actually serve to make the film less engaging than it should be. Wonderfully framed and painterly in its execution, with an effective mix of classical and 1970s style, it still never quite sparks into life.

The cast also struggle to bring a heartbeat to their characters. Nicole Kidman brings her customary reserve and elegance to a woman who has hints of a mysterious past that troubles her to this day, but the role remains distant and difficult to read – more than the film really requires. A clash or seduction between her and Colin Farrell’s corporal keeps promising dynamite but the explosions never really seem to come. Farrell laces his role with charm and a gruff masculinity, but the role misses a sense of his own darkness or manipulative nature until quite late, with the final act revelations making him appear more angry and bitter than the role really requires. It all kind of sums up the film that gets lost in its artifice and fails to uncover its heart.

The film, you could argue, does its best to beguile the audience with McBurney as the film’s character are. We are shown at every angle his vulnerability and tender politeness, and hidden from us for too long are his more manipulative elements. Coppola’s film becomes an intense study instead of sexual feelings and relations within a confined space. From sensual hand washes from Miss Martha, to intense declarations with lonely teacher Edwina, to not-so-innocent flirtations with the pupils, there is more than enough evidence that McBurney’s desire to stay may well be as much linked to seeing the school as having the potential to be his own private harem. The film’s failure in this intense sexual politics is that, while it captures moments of the simmer of attraction, it fails to really establish the danger that McBurney could suggest, as a violent man of action with complete control over a group of women.

Indeed the final moments of the film even suggest that the school itself may be a sort of siren’s bay – although lord knows McBurney is no Odysseys – which I found a rather confusing beat. Effective as the final images, or the film’s last supper betrayals, may be, they don’t carry quite enough wait because the film never quite nails the sexual tension it is aiming for, or the sensual danger it is trying to establish as a theme within the film. 

Other changes make less sense as well. Coppola deliberately changes the race of Edwina, from a mixed-race young woman to someone white enough to be played by Kirsten Dunst. While Dunst’s performance is fine, many of the themes of Edwina’s lack of confidence, her self-loathing, her feeling of having no place outside of the school, of being somehow less than other women are left in place. These themes of course make perfect sense for a mixed race woman in the 1860s who has landed a job through the connections of her father, but they make less sense for an attractive young schoolteacher with a privileged background. Coppola made the change because she felt that she could not do the theme justice, but she misses the fact that the very appearance of the character is the context needed for her to make sense.

The Beguiled is beautiful to observe and has its moments, but it never really comes to light the way it should. Thoughtful and poetic a director as Coppola is, she has created a film here that feels all artifice and no depth, that wants to paint a picture of the life of women in the civil war but never really has the energy and fire to make this come to life in a way to make the audience as engaged as they should be.

The Railway Man (2013)

Colin Firth is haunted by the past in The Railway Man

Director: Jonathan Teplitzky

Cast: Colin Firth (Eric Lomax), Nicole Kidman (Patricia Lomax), Stellan Skarsgård (Finlay), Hiroyuki Sanada (Takashi Nagase), Jeremy Irvine (Young Eric Lomax), Sam Reid (Young Finlay), Tanroh Ishida (Young Takashi Nagase)

There is perhaps nothing harder to do in life than to put the past behind you and forgive. We all seem to be hot wired to want revenge and to seek it against all odds. It’s rare indeed the man who learns to put the rage against the past behind him and to extend the hand of friendship.

Such a man was Eric Lomax (played here by Colin Firth). In the 1970s Eric meets and falls in love with Patricia (Nicole Kidman). The two are married, but Patricia soon discovers Eric is still plagued by memories of his imprisonment as a young man (played by Jeremy Irvine) by the Japanese during the Second World War, and in particular a prolonged period he spent being tortured by the Japanese secret police for building a radio. Lomax is unable to begin to talk about his experiences, even as trauma causes his life to deteriorate. Fellow ex-POW Finlay (Stellan Skarsgård – very good in a small but vital role) is the only one who has even the faintest idea of his experience, but cannot persuade him to even speak about his past or try and move on. After discovering his torturer Takashi Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada) is alive and well and working as a tourist guide in the very camp where Lomax was tortured, he travels to Japan, torn about what he should do.

Teplitzy’s film is powered by several marvellous performances, not least Colin Firth who is excellent in the lead role as the deeply repressed, tormented Lomax who in his heart has never left the prison where he suffered unbelievable torment. The film is a carefully structured, and deeply moving, character study of how atrocious and inhumane actions trap us all – both the victims and perpetrators – in patterns of suffering where we feel our own humanity drain away. Even handed, honest and generous, like Lomax’s book, it’s an engaging and moving tribute to the strength of the human spirit and our capacity for generosity.

Not least because when we finally meet the aged Nagase, he is far from the monster we expected. Like Lomax he too is haunted by the past, but where Lomax cannot escape the horrors he suffered, Nagase is plagued by guilt and disgust as he realises his actions as a young man were far from those of a righteous soldier, but rather a brainwashed pawn in a brutal army. Nagase, like Lomax, is desperate to purge himself of memories of this past, and has worked his whole life to try and make amends for the suffering he has caused. No simple good guys and bad guys here – both torturer and tortured are dehumanised, scarred and traumatised by the actions they have carried out. 

Teplitzky films that torture with an unflinching honesty, that leaves you in no doubt about why it has had such impact on Lomax. Jeremy Irvine is very good as the young Lomax, scared, vulnerable but brave and self-sacrificing who puts himself in the way of danger to try and protect his friends and then goes through savage beatings, interrogations and water boarding for information he doesn’t have. It’s difficult to watch, but never sensationalised and the traumatic pointlessness of these methods is abundantly clear. 

These memories, slowly revealed, are all too apparent in any case in Firth’s blasted face.  The film slowly reveals his psychological damage, with the opening sequence in fact suggesting a far lighter film ahead. The opening follows the meeting of Lomax and Patricia on a chance train journey. Playful and charming, these scenes work so well due to the wonderful chemistry between Firth and Kidman. It plays off in spadeas the plot gets darker and more disturbing. Kidman is very easy to overlook here in the “wife” role, but she invests it with an emotional honesty, a supportive woman eventually driven to the edge of her capabilities.

After the lightness of the opening, Terplitzky introduces the past literally like ghosts, with Lomax caught in a sudden delusion of himself being dragged through the hotel on his honeymoon, screaming in panic, to be carried to his torture danger. Throughout the film, the image of his torturer as a young man appears at various points (including at one point in a field as a train passes behind him), a constant reminder of how the past is here and now for Lomax.

It builds towards a sensational series of scenes as Lomax confronts Nagase, powered by two exceptional performances from Firth (barely able to control his anger, rage and pain) and a beaten down, distressed performance of shame from Hiroyuki Sanada, who matches him step for step. Sanada is superb as a man who confronts his nightmare – a man from his past – but also overwhelmed with the opportunity this gives him for amends. 

That’s what the film captures so well. This tension between past and present encapsulates the universal theme of our desire for revenge and our human need to connect coming together. Lomax and Nagase had every reason to kill each other, but their reaction to seeing each other is surprising, moving and a deep tribute to the human capacity to connect and move on. Grief and the past will destroy us all if we let it. The heroic examples of both Lomax and Nagase show us this doesn’t need to be the case.

Cold Mountain (2003)

Nicole Kidman and Jude Law are souls in love separated by war in Cold Mountain

Director: Anthony Minghella

Cast: Jude Law (WP Inman), Nicole Kidman (Ada Monroe), Renée Zellweger (Ruby Thewes), Eileen Atkins (Maddy), Kathy Baker (Sally Swanger), James Gammon (Esco Swanger), Brendan Gleeson (Stobrod Thewes), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Reverend Veasey), Natalie Portman (Sara), Giovanni Ribisi (Junior), Lucas Black (Oakley), Donald Sutherland (Reverend Monroe), Cillian Murphy (Bardolph), Jack White (Georgia), Ray Winstone (Teague), Melora Walters (Lila), Charlie Hunnam (Bosie)

There was no difficult novel Anthony Minghella couldn’t adapt for the big screen. Cold Mountain is as beautiful and handsome a film as any he made, and his masterful scripting of a complex story is testament to his skill. So why is Cold Mountain not more loved? Is it because it’s almost too well made, too handsomely mounted, too literary and intelligent? Is it, actually, trying a little too hard? Is it a Cold Mountain itself, a giant structure of beauty but with an icy heart?

Based on Charles Frazier’s novel, set in the final days of the American Civil War, confederate soldier Inman (Jude Law), knowing the war is lost, deserts to return to the woman he loves, Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman). The two of them have only spoken a few times but they feel a deep personal bond. During the years of war, poverty has hit preacher’s daughter Ada, although she has crafted a life-changing friendship with 18th century trailer trash Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger) which has helped her survive. As Inman’s odyssey home leads to him encountering a number of different vignettes that show the despair Civil War has brought to America, Ada struggles to survive and avoid the sinister attentions of home guard enforcer Teague (Ray Winstone).

There is so much to admire in Cold Mountain I want to start there. The photography is beautiful, and the film is assembled with a striking grace and skill. Walter Murch’s editing and sound design is perfect, with each shot of the film being fabulously composed and each carrying a specific message and purpose that contributes to the overall impact. The use of music – a collaboration between T Bone Burnett and Gabriel Yared – is perfect, a series of wonderful period compositions and impactful orchestral pieces. 

Everything about how Minghella captures the feel of the time, the mood of the South heading into war, and the disintegration of social conventions as the war takes hold and lays waste to the land, rings completely true. From the celebrations of the young men at the film’s start, to the increasingly haunted, tragic look of Jude Law’s Inman as he discovers new horrors at every point in his journey, you know war is hell. Minghella ironically opens the film with a catastrophic defeat for the North – but the slaughter disgusts Inman, and his burial under mounds of rubble during an explosion leads to a spiritual rebirths with Inman deciding senseless killing isn’t worth the candle any more. In a war of willing volunteers, how do we respond when these volunteers don’t want to keep fighting?

And why should they, as each of the various vignettes Inman walks through is a wasteland of moral collapse? From a sex-obsessed preacher (an amusing performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman) who has lost his morals to a tragic widow desperately trying to feed her baby (Natalie Portman, effectively stealing the whole show with an intense performance of utter desolation), everything Inman sees shows that nothing is worth all this. The film gets a very good sense of the drive that pushes Inman forward: constantly moving, he’s rarely seen sitting or resting. Each of the Odyssey-inspired stories gives him something to reflect on, or another opportunity for moral and emotional torment , from dragging bodies in a chain gang to avoiding the lustful advances of a group of hillbilly sirens who trap deserters for money.

Meanwhile, things ain’t much better on the homefront, where corrupt bullies like Teague (a slightly too obvious Ray Winstone) are enforcing their own law at the expense of justice. Poverty is also the impact of war, and poor Ada suffers hugely from this, as supplies run low and eventually out. Minghella’s swift and skilful establishment of character shows from the start how Ada is a stranger in a strange land, a middle-class town girl who is completely unsuited for country life and utterly unready to fend for herself when the chips are down without support. 

Is it any wonder in this world, that Inman and Ada cling to memories? Part of the film’s effect depends on how you respond to the romantic bond between these two clinging to a few brief moments (a few exchanges and one immensely passionate kiss on the day of Inman’s departure). It’s an old-fashioned, sweeping, love story and it depends on you relating to that old-fashioned mythic love story. I’m not sure that the film quite sells this as effectively as it could do. Somehow, perhaps because Inman is so insular and Ada a little too difficult to relate to, the passion between them can’t quite carry the sweep that the film demands, even as Minghella skilfully intercuts between them.

Nicole Kidman in particular feels miscast as Ada. Kidman is too intelligent, too determined and strong a performer to convince as a woman who is unable to look after herself and nearly succumbs to fear – she’s just not an actress I can picture cowering in fear in front of an angry rooster. Kidman does her best, but the character never really wins the sympathy that we need for the performance to work. Jude Law has much more to work with as Inman, brilliantly communication a whole world of feeling with very little dialogue. 

What works less well with Law is that his plotline just doesn’t quite grip enough. The vignettes are often entertaining, but feel like episodic sketches, and the sense of a building picture of the despair of the South doesn’t quite come into shape as much in practice as it does in theory. Frankly, after a while, you are ready for Inman’s journey to come to an end and for him to intersect with Ada’s plotline back at Cold Mountain (which is built around a consistent group of characters who engage our interest).

In the home front storyline you’ll be relieved with the entrance (almost an hour into the film) of Renée Zellweger’s blowsy Ruby, a loud-mouthed, trailer-trash woman with a heart of gold and a mastery of farming who effectively saves Ada’s life. It’s a loud, big, Oscar-winning performance from Zellweger that plays with being a little broad, but is skilfully balanced by the slow reveal that this personality is a cover that Ruby uses to hide her own pain. Added to this depth, her heart-warming presence carries such simple pleasure and colour compared to the more muted performances from the leads that you welcome it. 

Because Inman and Ada don’t quite work as a romantic couple. There is something slightly cold about them, slightly hard to relate to. And for all the intense and brilliant construction and filming of the film – and the mastery of Minghella’s writing and direction – it never makes them into the sort of classic romantic couple you care for. You want to connect with it more than you ever really do, and whether that is down to miscasting or the lack of intense chemistry between them I’m not sure, but it means Cold Mountain never becomes the great romantic tragedy it should be. You want a film this good to be as good as it feels – and it never quite is.

Destroyer (2018)

Nicole Kidman goes way-against-type as a bend the rules cop in Destroyer

Director: Karyn Kusama

Cast: Nicole Kidman (Detective Erin Bell), Sebastian Stan (Chris), Toby Kebbell (Silas), Tatiana Maslany (Petra), Bradley Whitford (DiFranco), Jade Pettyjohn (Shelby Bell), Scoot McNairy (Ethan), Toby Huss (Gil Lawson)

There are few things that pique the interest of reviewers and viewers more than a celebrated Hollywood star going well against type, looking rough, playing tough and letting those shades of grey flow freely. That’s the cheap interest in Destroyer, Karyn Kusama’s engaging, well-made thriller which showcases the sort of way-against-type performance by Nicole Kidman that practically demands the poster scream “Kidman as you’ve never seen her before!”. Of course this all serves to obscure that Kidman is a damn fine actress and a committed performer, and she gives it everything in this grimy, underworld thriller of compromised cops and ruthless robbers.

Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman) is a detective with a shady past: an undercover operation with an FBI Agent Chris (Sebastian Stan) which went wrong 15 years ago. In the present day, the body of a John Doe in Los Angeles opens up links to this case from the past, causing Erin to start a rogue investigation into her old undercover days and the gang members she knew back in the day, specifically her long-held grudge against the psychopathic Silas (Toby Kebbell).

Destroyer gives us a familiar story – the cop with the dodgy past, gone to seed, playing against the rules, tired of life, with a shattered family background, investigating what could be one last case that has devastating links to the past – but presents it from a slightly new angle by making the protagonist a woman. This calls for a terrific performance from Nicole Kidman, who is bashed up, run down, grouchy, seedy and above all immensely damaged. Kidman’s skill at a performer is evident in every scene, creating a character who cannot escape from the burdens of her past, who rejects all help and who is unable to live with the burden of some sort of unspecified guilt.

Much has been made of Kidman’s roughed up, broken nosed, run down, alcoholic appearance (the film gets a lot of mileage over close ups of her ravaged, aged, alcoholic’s hands), but her commitment to the role transcends any deliberate slumming. She is completely believable as the sort of rough-and-tumble, rule breaking cop. The make-up also means that the flashback scenes to a 15-years younger Erin are immediately clear – and give us a clear indication of how far she has fallen since her more hopeful days.

The film is all about the burden of the past, and the film constantly flashes back and forth between the present day and Erin’s time undercover. The film carefully and slowly unveils the exact reasons for Erin’s guilt and why she has become the person she is, but the burden of it hangs over every scene in the present and is visible in Kidman’s eyes in every scene. It brings these themes to life extremely well and weaves an engaging story, even if everything in it seems like a collection of familiar events from other films.

In fact that is the film’s biggest weakness, right there. Many of the events, characters and themes in it feel like they have been plucked from a range of noir thrillers, thrown up into the air, and then reassembled into a new patchwork. As impressive as Kidman’s character is, it’s familiar to us from any number of hard-boiled cops past. The film’s structure – of Kidman going from contact to contact to get closer to Silas – basically allows for a series of actors to give performances that, for all their skill, end up feeling like a random collection of stock characters. None more so than Silas himself who, despite Toby Kebbell’s best efforts, is a totally forgettable rent-a-psycho. But then you can say the same for Tatiana Maslany’s aged junkie and, for all his slimy excellence in the role, Bradley Whitford’s sleazy money launderer. Other characters feel the same as well, from Kidman’s troubled teenage daughter, her would-be gangster boyfriend, Erin’s put upon ex-partner or her wearily understanding partner. These people all seem, to various degrees, to be stock caricatures rather than characters.

What really makes the film work is the dynamic, often hand-held, kinetic energy of Karyn Kusama’s direction. Jittery, immediate and very real, Kusama makes a number of these stock situations – from shoot outs to roughing up suspects – look at least new and exciting. The two main shoot outs in the film are extremely excitingly done and make for gripping set pieces, with the added originality of seeing the main players being women. 

But the film itself is just a little too obvious and stock for it to really stand by itself, for all the quality of the direction and the excellence of Kidman. There are some moments that work brilliantly with the unexpected twist of having a woman in the lead role and seeing Kidman throw herself into a gunfight with a heat-packing disregard for her own safety is all the more electric for it. But it’s still a little too predictable and familiar – for all the fact that there is a decent semi-twist towards the end that reveals not all is as we thought at the start – which perhaps doesn’t make it a film for all time.

Lion (2016)

Dev Patel searches for his past in Lion

Director: Garth Davies

Cast: Sunny Pawar (Young Saroo), Dev Patel (Saroo Brierley), Rooney Mara (Lucy), Nicole Kidman (Sue Brierley), David Wenham (John Brierley), Abishek Bharate (Guddu), Divina Ladwa (Mantosh Brierley), Priyanka Bose (Kamla Munshi), Seepti Naval (Saroj Sood)

In 1986, Saroo (Sunny Pawar) is accidentally separated from his brother Guddu (Abishek Bharate) and mother (Priyanka Bose) after being trapped on a train that travels 1,600km to Calcutta. Unable to find his way home, and dodging the dangers of Calcutta’s streets, he eventually ends up in an orphanage. He is adopted by an Australian couple, the Brierleys (fine and tender performances Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). Twenty years later, a chance meeting with a group of Indian students brings Saroo’s (Dev Patel) memories flooding back– and dedicates himself to retracing his steps and finding his family in India.

Lion is an overlong expansion of a story that would really spark your interest when presented in a newspaper article. But Garth Davies’ film drains the dramatic life out of the story by ludicrously overextending the telling in order to try and eke as much emotion from the audience as possible. Lion is under two hours, but it really should be at most an hour and a half.

The problem is the central section in Australia, while our hero tries to locate his roots. It just isn’t quite interesting enough, despite sterling, committed and emotional work from Dev Patel. Put simply, even with an extraordinary story like this, the film can’t help but communicate Sarro’s obsessions through cinema’s clichés. So we get a madness board with pins and bits of string to link clues. We get Saroo increasingly dishevelled. We get him driving away family and girlfriend. We get moody, tearful glances into the middle distance. Even the final solution to the mystery occurs after a spark of inspiration during a rage fuelled “I’m going to wreck this board and give up” moment. This whole section just serves to reduce the story into movie-of-the-week territory.

The film just doesn’t quite connect with us as it should. Perhaps because of the amount of time given over to very slow Google Earth searches, or overblown camera tracking shots across train lines, or expansive slow, piano-scored moments of emotional torment from Saroo. It’s a shame because there are flashes of good material in there – Nicole Kidman’s has a stand out scene to explain why she chose not to have children – and Dev Patel is the best he’s been. But it doesn’t quite work. After Saroo’s emotional revelation at an Indian friend’s house and realisation that he is “lost” (and this quiet devastation from Patel is affecting), the story doesn’t really kick off. It just slows down.

It’s a shame as the opening third of the film with young Saroo lost in Calcutta is very well done, even if it seems virtually every male living on the streets is a paedophile. The early scenes with Saroo and his brother are very good, and establish the strength of their bond. Sunny Pawar does a marvellous job as the lost boy, and Garth Davies films Calcutta with an earthy realism, as well as having a wonderful sense of empathy for the vulnerability of children. It’s also striking to see how uncommented upon a child alone on the streets of Calcutta goes. The dangers Saroo dodges feel genuinely threatening, and helps us invest emotionally for the rest of the film.

The moments that flash back to this do get overplayed later. Much as I initially liked Saroo hallucinating his brother and mother appearing around him in the streets of Melbourne, it’s a card that quickly gets overused. Like many of the ideas in this film, it gets hammered home a little too much. It’s that whole middle section, with poor Rooney Mara saddled with the thankless part of supportive girlfriend. You could have cut it down by 20 minutes and had the same impact. Garth Davies’ direction simply gets carried away with the lyrical sadness, to try and tug our heartstrings.

The problem is the most moving part of the film is the final sequence where we see the real people meeting in the streets of Khandwha. Nothing else in the film really measures up to this genuine emotion. Particularly after we’ve watched a man searching Google and behaving moodily for well over forty minutes. It’s a film that loses its way because it’s moments of emotional reality like that which make these stories truly profound – and a dramatisation can never provide that. With the film also unable to find a way to make the search as dramatic and engaging as the getting lost and being found, it also flounders in the middle, taking way too long to get us to the destination. It’s got its moments, but it’sa well assembled film that outstays its welcome.