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Cinema Film round-up with MARIA DUARTE and MARTIN HALL: 17 November 2023

Reviews of Saltburn, May December, Driving Madeleine and The Mission

Saltburn (15)
Directed by Emerald Fennell 


ACADEMY award-winning film-maker Emerald Fennell’s second film, which opened this year’s London Film Festival, is a deliciously wicked and subversive psychological thriller about class, privilege and desire. 
Set in 2006 it follows undergraduate Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) who is struggling to fit in at Oxford University. He’s from a troubled and seemingly working-class background who becomes fascinated and charmed by the charismatic young aristocrat Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi) who soon befriends him. He invites him to come stay at his eccentric family’s sprawling country home, Saltburn, for the summer. 

Felix’s aristocratic parents, played divinely by Richard E Grant and Rosamund Pyke, who are clearly having a blast, are completely out of touch with reality and love taking strays in. 

Although they welcome him with open arms, there are sly reminders from Felix’s friends and Saltburn’s butler Duncan (Paul Rhys, A Discovery of Witches, Napoleon) that he isn’t one of them, just someone from the outside looking in. 

A cross between a Gothic romance and a more modern-day Brideshead Revisited, writer-director Fennell creates a lavish and gorgeously shot drama full of twists and turns, centred around the British country house where class, power and sex collide. 

It is a wonderfully entertaining and beautifully crafted thriller which is as funny as it is dark, and that takes an unexpected turn in the final act. 
Out in cinemas today.
May December (15)
Directed by Todd Haynes


A SEEMINGLY perfect suburban couple with a significant age gap sees their happy life slowly unravel when a Hollywood actress comes to observe them for a film role, in Todd Haynes’ morally disturbing and discomfiting-to-watch melodrama. 

Gracie (Julianne Moore) was 36 when she met and fell for her husband Joe (Charles Melton) who was only 13 years old, sparking a tabloid scandal.

Twenty years later they are preparing to see their twins head off to college. At 36 should Joe be an empty nester? As famous star Elizabeth Berry (Natalie Portman) shadows and studies Gracie to play her in a film the cracks in the relationship begin to show. 

Moore, in her fifth collaboration with Haynes, and Portman, delivers a masterclass in acting while Melton is a real revelation as a man-child who begins to question his life. Should we be rooting for them? It does pose some interesting ethical questions. 
Out in cinemas today.

Driving Madeleine (15)
Directed by Christian Caron


DRIVING MADELEINE is a wonderfully old-fashioned film in many ways. Charles (Dany Boon), an ill-tempered taxi driver, drives a 92-year-old woman, Madeleine (Line Renaud), from her house on one side of Paris to a nursing home the other side of town. She asks Charles to make various detours and in so doing, tells the story of her life.

These segments are presented as flashbacks, very much in the style of a ’50s melodrama by Douglas Sirk, with warm colours and soft tones. Like with Sirk, once we see under the surface, there is a different world to the one initially presented: one of abuse, prison and death, but also activism. 

The contemporary scenes are shot in a naturalistic style, giving the viewer a picture of a growing friendship between two people spending the day together. It is heart-warming and pleasingly sentimental. But wait until you see what lies beneath…
Out in cinemas today.

The Mission (12A)
Directed by Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss


THIS documentary tells the story of the life and death by arrows of Christian missionary John Allen Chau on a beach on North Sentinel Island and genuinely explores some complex themes: imperialism; colonialism; faith; and not least, the rights of people to live in isolation from the modern world.

We see animated recreations of a young Chau growing up under the influence of the romantic myth of the colonial explorer, but with evangelical Christianity as the motive force in the mix.

The story is shown to us via the testimony of his friends, a letter from his father Patrick, and John’s own diaries. His father, a Chinese immigrant to the US and psychiatrist, clearly sees the problem with the idea that evangelism should extend to converting those who do not wish to be converted. 

It’s a fascinating history of a worldview and of one remarkable young man’s adherence to it.
Out in cinemas today.



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