Film reviews: Dreams of a Life | The Well Digger’s Daughter | Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
Alistair Harkness on some of the week’s other notable film releases...
Dreams of a life (12A)
Directed by: CAROL MORLEY
Here’s a compassionate, haunting and tragic film with a desperately sad seasonal twist that makes it almost unbearably poignant viewing. It’s the story of Joyce Vincent, a 38-year-old London woman whose skeletal remains were found in 2006 in a bedsit almost three years after her death.
Surrounded by half-wrapped Christmas presents, and with a television set still flickering away, her lonely fate remains a terrible indictment of the social and bureaucratic failures of 21st-century Britain.
This is intrinsic to Dreams of a Life, but rather than brow-beating us into submission with after-the-fact outrage, director Carol Morley seeks to illuminate these failings by reconstructing the life of a woman who was allowed to slip through the cracks and become just another statistic.
In a style reminiscent of Errol Morris, Morley interviews friends, boyfriends and colleagues who slowly drifted out of Joyce’s life and, through their impassioned, often conflicting and sometimes tearful reminiscences, begins to piece together a portrait of a remarkably complicated individual who seemed vivacious and sociable on the outside but rarely gave anything away. Dramatic reconstructions add an extra layer of melancholy, as does the final shot of the real Joyce – the only photo of her used in the film – which also, rather bizarrely, brings to mind Woody Allen’s Zelig.
THE WELL DIGGER’S DAUGHTER (PG)
Directed by: DANIEL AUTEUIL
Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Kad Merad, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey
VETERAN French actor Daniel Auteuil makes a competent rather than scintillating directorial debut with this remake of Marcel Pagnol’s 1941 French hit about a beautiful working-class girl who falls pregnant to a bourgeois young man on the eve of the Second World War.
Shooting in the stately, bucolic style of Jean de Florette (the film which made him a star), he proceeds to transform this story about class divide and entrenched misogyny into a nostalgic tale of familial heartache and reconciliation that is relatively absorbing, if not really critical enough of values its characters hold dear to seem like he’s put much of a modern slant on proceedings.
Nevertheless, as with a lot of films from actors-turned-directors, it is impeccably performed, with Auteuil himself bringing plenty of shading to his role as the proud well digger – a father of five daughters, the youngest of whom, Patricia (played by Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), he casts out after her pregnancy leads the family of the baby’s father to accuse him of being a blackmailer.
It’s just too bad that the saccharine ending doesn’t leave much room for any ambiguity with regards to how we’re supposed to feel about any of the characters.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-wrecked (U)
Directed by: MIKE MITCHELL
Starring: Jason Lee, David Cross, Jenny Slate
I BLAME the parents. There’s nothing remotely amusing about the titular helium-voiced rodents and their eardrum-assaulting novelty act, yet that hasn’t stopped this current iteration from raking in hundreds of millions of dollars at the world-wide box office, thanks to mums and dads dragging their kids to see the films even when there’s plenty of other family-friendly entertainment on offer at the multiplex. .
Hopefully this third instalment might bring the series to a close – they say bad things happen in threes – because really, once you’ve witnessed a high-pitched rendition of Lady Gaga’s sexed-up Born This Way reconfigured as an anthem for mediocre talents following their dreams, there really isn’t anywhere else to go.
This time the mischievous Chipmunks (and their female compatriots, the Chipettes) are stranded on a volcanic island after falling off a cruise ship. Nothing much really happens. Lessons about responsibility are learned and conservative family values are promoted as the once-funny Jason Lee, cast as their “Dad” Dave, returns to search for them.
He’s joined again by comic David Cross, playing the bitter former record company exec who let the Chipmunks, the Chipettes and – in an effort to make this relevant to today’s kiddies – Justin Bieber slip through his fingers. The kill-me-now look on his face seems fairly genuine.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
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Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west