Ex-commercials director Baillie Walsh, in moving country and decade, executes a jarring change of mood, milieu and genre. We are hardly accustomed to his high-tech ’Scope images of the Hollywood elite’s drug- and sex-addled playgrounds, before we’re whisked back to the deceptively snugger, old-fashioned world of this fucked-up career exile’s youth. But it’s hard to read the meaning of his fateful escapades in this world of gaming arcades and rundown beach huts, viewed as they are through the distorting lens of the older Joe’s memory.
The result is an ambitious but disappointing, regret-filled psycho-drama. Some individual scenes are impressive: a portentous, Ian McEwan-lite set-piece involving playing children or the scene illustrating the confusion and nascent vanity of the teenage Joe (the handsome-featured but limited Harry Eden) accepting sex with a conflicted, unhappily married neighbour (Jodhi May), knowing it will disappoint his fellow Bowie-loving first love (the excellent Felicity Jones). But, overall, Walsh’s use of music (Scott Walker) and glossy ‘mid-Atlantic’ direction seems more pretentious than evocative and unsuited to the material, beaching too many of the actors’ performances, not least Craig’s, whose sketchy role precludes any sort of audience sympathy or emotional involvement.