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Time Out says
Tue Dec 2 2008In John Cassavetes’s 1980 film ‘Gloria’, mobster moll Gena Rowlands finds her maternal side while on the run with an uppity Latin boy who survives his parents’ murder. Art-house French director Erick (‘The Dreamlife of Angels’) Zonca’s first film in a decade (and first in English) plays out a similar scenario – and variations on it – in ‘Julia’. Here, cash-strapped, sacked LA executive and self-destructive barfly Julia (Tilda Swinton) similarly embarks on a danger-filled arc of flight and self-discovery, as she finds herself in charge of another little tyke: millionaire’s son Tom (Aidan Gould) as the unintended result of a seriously misguided and disastrously botched kidnapping scam.
Just as Rowlands’s performance anchored ‘Gloria’, Swinton’s provides the central fascination of ‘Julia’, although her twitchier turn in this overly long ’Scope movie won’t recommend itself to those who like their thrillers delivered straight. There are other worries, too: Zonca’s free-wheeling, somewhat distanced approach makes you wonder, initially, whether he may be sacrificing too many of the logical genre requirements in a forlorn search for some frenetic, existential mood-piece or, perhaps, a psychologically probing character study.
Thankfully, though, as the film drives to its conclusion, the director’s risky tightrope walk between observation, black comedy and thrills starts to pay greater and greater dividends. Admittedly, there’s still a credibility gap as Julia’s escalating predicament and the conflicting prompts of personal fear and moral duty force her to sober up and bolt for the border, pursued by Latin heavies even more crazed than those in Welles’s ‘Touch of Evil’. But, finally, it’s the slow burn of Swinton’s idiosyncratic but engrossing interpretation of this unlikely heroine that holds the movie together and provides an end result that is both affecting and teasingly different.
Author: Wally Hammond