Friday, 30 September 2011

Have you seen One Day?

I have to admit I’m a bit late on this one, but I’ve just seen David Nicholls’ film adaptation of his book One Day.
When I saw the trailer a month or so ago, it didn’t immediately go to the top of my must see list. When I heard about the way the story was told – covering the lives of its characters on the same day each year – I became more intrigued. Unsure whether or not to read the book or see the film version first, time drifted by and I still hadn’t done either.
But, last night, having already seen all my must see movies I decided now was the time for One Day. And I loved it.
The story had numerous themes including friendship, love and growing up. Essentially the film explored relationship simpatico, which it achieved honestly and truthfully, with the emotional development of the main characters out of sync with each other and often at odds.
Initially I had expected the film to exude chic flic glamour and simplicity, but this was far from true. The relationship between the two leads, Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess), was complex and refreshing. All of the story's characters were flawed in some way and had elements of vulnerability. Dexter, in particular, was not easy to like, which added a level of realism to the world created by the story’s writer David Nicholls.
The film skilfully portrayed the confusion of youthful independence, finding a place in the world and a means of identifying one’s own purpose within it. Dexter’s recognition that ‘everyone feels lost in their twenties’, was something that particularly resonated with me, having just changed paths myself, leaving my full time job to pursue a career in writing.
The reconstruction of the 1990s was superb, not least through the music, fashion and set design which believably illustrated the passage of time. For the audience, watching the film became as much about recollecting one’s own journey as that of the story's characters.
The standout performance for me was from Rafe Spall who played wannabe stand-up comic Ian. His portrayal of unrequited love was both touching and humorous. Also putting in a wonderful performance was Ken Scott playing the role of Steven, Dexter’s concerned father.
Coming out of the cinema I was left with an urge to buy the book, which I aim to do very soon. If you haven’t already seen One Day, you should, even if you have to wait for the DVD.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Jane Eyre - new film release

Where better to start my new blog than with my favourite story of all time, Jane Eyre?

This September has seen the release of a new film version of the book directed by Cary Fukunaga. Billed as a dramatic re-telling in which Jane looks back on her childhood and life at Thornfield Hall from the vantage point of her new home with St John Rivers and his family, I went to the cinema enthusiastically and with an open mind.

The film begins dramatically with Jane fleeing Thornfield at dawn. This scene evoked all the pain and desparation which is so evident in the book. A very promising start. I was also impressed by the way this new interpretation dealt with Jane's early life at Lowood School. Visually the children did look neglected, with Helen in particular appearing very ill. Previous versions have often underplayed the difficulties faced by the children in this institution.

Moira Buffini's screenplay kept much of the book's dialogue in its original form and style. This was particularly brilliant in the drawing room scenes showing the first conversations between Jane and Rochester, conveying exquisitely the intellectual connection between the two characters.
The screenplay was not flawless, however. Telling the story in flashbacks offered vast potential to reveal Jane's agony and regret about leaving Rochester. However, little time was spent with Jane at this point in her life, the flashbacks being told chronologially, with very few flashes forward. This was a missed opportunity to do something inventive with the story.

Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are Alright) certainly looks like the Jane we know from the book. Capable of showing determination and supressed passion she is convincing in the role. For me, however, Wasikowska's Jane failed to show enough restraint at times, leaning in to Rochester's advances a little too eagerly. 

As Rochester, Michael Fassbender (X Men: First Class, Inglourious Basterds) portays the gentle and vulnerable elements of Rochester well. However, this is not sufficiently contrasted with the violent, passionate and desperate aspects of his character. Fassbender's Rochester warms to Jane much too quickly. The story was also hampered by his being much too handsome for the role, often distracting the audience from the deeper mental attraction that drives the central romance. 

On the whole, the film is visually very appealing. The countryside is raw and untamed, whilst the interior locations of Thornfield suggest the often oppressive nature of life during the Victorian era. Despite the potential this style provided for emphasising the gothic aspects of the book, the more frightening, more mysterious elements were regrettably underplayed.

Of course, it was always going to be difficult to make a screen version of Jane Eyre which rivaled my enjoyment of the book. Whilst this version hit many of the right spots early on, the relationship between Rochester and Jane ultimately lacked the necessary intensity and depth.


For photos and information see Focus Features official website