This movie grew on me after I left the theater. While it’s a dark, depressing tale of a young punk who wants to rise in the criminal gangs in Brighton, England, it’s a lot deeper than that. The writer of the novel, Graham Greene, converted to Catholicism in order to marry his wife, and his feelings about the faith and the Church influenced the rest of his life and writings. It is the subtext of the film, even though writer/director Rowan Joffe originally took it out of the script. When that clearly didn’t work, he put it back in.
His protagonist, Pinkie (Sam Riley) is the young punk who wants to rise in the British criminal world. After one of his compatriots is brutally murdered, Pinkie becomes more and more sociopathic. He is one of the more unredeeming villains ever filmed. The film is about his seduction of Rose (Andrea Riseborough), a naïve waitress, who can pin a murder on him. His psychologically brutal treatment of Rose is nauseating. On Rose’s side is her boss, Ida (Helen Mirren), who sees Pinkie for what he is and tries to be Rose’s savior.
On the surface, this might appear to be just another crime film. But when seen as an allegory of the fight between good and evil, and from the standpoint of Greene’s Catholicism, it takes on a completely different appearance. Pinkie is a metaphoric devil. His hair is even spiked in certain scenes. Rose is a metaphor for mankind. The story isn’t really about his rise in the criminal world; it’s the story of the battle for Rose’s soul between Pinkie, as the devil, and Ida, as the Church.
The performances are a major contribution to making this film something special. Riley, Riseborough and Mirren give such magnificent performances that the movie might be worth seeing just for them. But I have to say that as good as Riley and Riseborough are, the film really captured me when Mirren was onscreen.
This is not an easy film to watch, but if one accepts the allegory and doesn’t mind some deep thinking, it’s a fascinating experience.
This speculates about Wolfgang Mozart’s (David Moreau) sister, Nannerl (Marie Féret), who was apparently a highly talented violinist and harpsichordist, but who couldn’t have a career due to her sex. So their father concentrated all his efforts on Wolfgang, sacrificing Nannerl.
While this might be a slightly interesting story if told by a filmmaker who had any money and the judgment to make it a relatively short film, this almost interminable effort by writer, director, producer René Féret was obviously made on a shoestring. There’s nothing wrong with that; in fact, I admire filmmakers who devote everything they have to a project in which they believe. But here most of the actors are relatives. His daughter plays the title role. All told there are four Férets in the cast, including René. None of the actors show even an iota of emotion, save the non-Féret Clovis Fouin, who plays Le Dauphin, who loses his composure for about 17 seconds near the end of the film. Other than Clovis, these are people who seem to be just reading teleprompters.
Féret completely fails to capture the frustration Nannerl must have felt as she saw her talent going to waste and her father forgetting her and concentrating on her younger brother. That, after all, is the point of the film. But one never feels that Nannerl feels much of anything as she just goes about her life as if it had all been written.
Worse than how long this drags, this is a costume drama set in 18th century France that should have been filled with beautiful vistas and colorful costumes, but Féret used film stock that looks like it was old Trucolor film discarded by Republic Pictures in the late ‘40s. It’s so washed out there couldn’t have been less color had he used black and white film. In French.