Time Out says
Thu Oct 27 2005For his marvellously entertaining first feature as director, acclaimed comic-strip artist Dave McKean has co-written, with frequent collaborator Neil Gaiman, a rites-of-passage fable that takes its place alongside such fantasies as ‘The Company of Wolves’, ‘Time Bandits’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Helena (Stephanie Leonidas), a feisty Brighton 15-year-old, performs in her parents’ struggling circus – very reluctantly. After a violent row, her mum (Gina McKee) collapses and is taken to hospital for an operation, whereupon Helena, overcome by grief and guilt despite reassurances from her dad (Rob Brydon), falls asleep and enters a dark dreamworld bearing a nightmarish resemblance to reality. Sent in search of something known as the Mirrormask, she embarks on an odyssey through a bizarre landscape populated by people and creatures both beautiful and grotesque, helpful and menacing…
McKean’s dazzlingly inventive blend of live action and digital animation boasts a wise, witty, suspenseful script that never labours its status as an allegorical account of the troubled transition into adulthood. All the actors strike the right notes, but McKean’s especially well served by Leonidas, who judging by her performance here (following on from Sally Potter’s ‘Yes’), looks to have a very promising future – that she was very often required to react, by means of optical trickery, to the invisible (to her) figments of Gaiman and McKean’s collective imagination, makes her achievement all the more impressive. Finally, however, it’s those figments – including giants, sphinxes and, perhaps most memorably, the Bobs – that steal the show. Like any filmmaker worth his/her salt, McKean has managed to make the world he’s created on screen strangely but utterly plausible.
Author: Geoff Andrew