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This hipster weepie from Belgium has left audiences in puddles of snivelling slush. I have to admit it left me a little cold. Like ‘Blue Valentine’ it tells the story of a couple falling in and out of love by flashing back and forward in time. In hospital, a doctor tells Didier (Johan Heldenbergh) and Elise (Veerle Baetens) that their six-year-old daughter has cancer. In the next scene we see them seven years earlier in the first flush of love, everything sunshine and hope. He’s a dude with beard and a banjo who plays in a bluegrass band – the music gives the film its heart. She’s a rockabilly girl covered in tattoos. There’s a look in his eye like he can’t believe this woman wants to be with him. The trick of flicking between then and now is incredibly poignant. And Heldenbergh and Baetens pull you in with committed performances – their raw pain and grief is totally believable. But all that honest, intense emotion is thrown away as the film outstays its welcome by 40 minutes or so, piling one tragedy on to another.
It’s ‘84 Charing Cross Road’ with extra chutney in this enormously likeable Indian romantic comedy-drama. Irrfan Khan plays the grouchy, widowed claims adjuster who discovers that his lunch has been accidentally switched with a co-worker’s. Instead of notifying the delivery service he tucks in, and is transported to culinary heaven in the magical hands of isolated housewife Ila (Nimrat Kaur). It’s not long before this mismatched pair are exchanging furtive letters tucked into folded chapatis.There’s nothing wildly original here, but it’s carried off with charm and wit, and a pair of very enjoyable central performances. The sense of place – bustling, teeming modern Mumbai – is superbly realised, and there’s an air of wistfulness and melancholy which feels pleasingly out of step with many of the film’s Western forebears: it’s hard to imagine Tom Hanks in ‘You’ve Got Mail’ – or even, for that matter, Woody Allen – recognising that he’s over the hill because his bathroom has begun to smell like his grandfather’s.‘The Lunchbox’ never quite makes the most of its intriguing setup – writer-director Ritesh Batra seems torn between romance and realism, and the film tries a little too hard to cover both bases. But those who like their character comedy rich, sweet and just a little broad will find plentiful pleasures here.
‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’ is a minutely detailed, searingly erotic three-hour study of first lesbian love. Its writer-director, the French-Tunisian Abdellatif Kechiche, had a setback with his last film, 2010’s ‘Black Venus’. An imposing biopic of the nineteenth-century South African slave-turned-freakshow-act Saartjie Baartman it proved too harrowing a vision for British or American distributors. Most directors would retreat into safer territory after an experience like that, but most directors aren’t Kechiche. ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’ is the most brazenly singular return the ‘Couscous’ director could have made, and the richest film of his career to boot.Nothing about the film’s coming-of-age narrative, nor the rise and fall of its core romance, is intrinsically new or daring, yet Kechiche’s freewheeling perspective on young desire is uncommon in its emotional maturity. Our heroine, Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos, astonishing), begins the film as a precocious high-schooler and ends it as a grown woman still with plenty to learn about herself. Unlike so many same-sex-themed films that focus on coming out as the defining gay experience, ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’ glides past that stage of Adèle’s life in a bold chronological leap, finding more nuanced drama in the evolving challenges of maintaining an unfixed sexuality.Adèle is 15 when she senses something amiss in her dating life. Dreamy schoolmate Thomas (Jeremie Laheurte) is all over her, but she can’t get a fleeting pa
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The word ‘breathtaking’ is bandied about a lot, but when was the last time a film truly had the power to leave its audience gasping for air, pinned to their seats, sick and dizzy? In ‘Gravity’, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play nervous newbie astronaut Dr Ryan Stone and seasoned pro Matt Kowalsky, whose work on the Hubble Space Telescope is violently interrupted by a catastrophic debris collision. Cut off from ground communications and drifting in space, their only hope lies in making it to the International Space Station before Stone’s air supply runs out. Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón already displayed the depths of his skill with ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ and ‘Children of Men’: think of the eight-minute shakycam battle scene in the latter, as he zoomed from bloody close-up to hectic overview without breaking the shot. But nothing he has done before comes close to matching the astonishing beauty, force and originality of ‘Gravity’. This isn’t just the best-looking film of the year, it’s one of the most awe-inspiring achievements in the history of special-effects cinema. So it’s a shame that – as is so often the case with groundbreaking effects movies – the emotional content can’t quite compete with the visual. The first half is close to flawless. Like the astronauts, Cuarón’s ‘camera’ is completely untethered, allowing for astonishing feats of cinematic dexterity: as Stone spirals off into deep space, spinning uncontrollably, we overtake and travel i
While other filmmakers get their hands dirty in kitchen sinks, Wes Anderson surely slips his into luxury cashmere mittens. His films overflow with intricate detail and make no pretence of existing in a world other than their own, just-about-earthbound parallel universe. So the five-star premises of his energetic new comedy ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ – a wedding-cake-like, pastel-coloured establishment situated somewhere in 1930s Mitteleuropa and peopled by eccentrics and lunatics – feel like business as usual. What’s different, though, is that the film’s shaggy-dog, sort-of-whodunit yarn offers laughs and energy that make this Anderson’s most fun film since ‘Rushmore’. Where ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ had heart, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ has pace and a winning manic streak. It also gives Ralph Fiennes a rare comic role as Monsieur Gustave, a concierge who wavers brilliantly between thug and gentleman aesthete. From Gustave’s mouth pours a head-spinning cocktail of politeness and filth as he becomes embroiled in the murder investigation and inheritance tussles that follow the death of one of his most loyal guests, the elderly Madame D (Tilda Swinton, barely recognisable beneath a carapace of make-up). At Gustave’s side is his loyal apprentice, Zero Moustafa (newcomer Tony Revolori with a drawn-on pencil moustache), who decades later (now played by F Murray Abraham) recounts events over dinner to a writer played by Jude Law. The rest of Anderson’s cast is sprawling and starry. Blink a