Tag Archives: love

Movie review – 45 Years

Can you ever really know someone, even after spending a lifetime together?

This is the premise of 45 Years, a dissection of the marriage between Kate & Geoff Mercer, a childless, middle-class couple living in a rural property on the Norfolk Broads, in the week leading up to a party to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary.

But the arrival of a letter takes Geoff back to his life before Kate, when he was in love with a German girl who suffered a tragic death.

Layers of the story and of Geoff & Kate’s relationship are unpeeled in real time. The pace is slow, reflecting the routine of a retired couple with their own interests, and you feel as though you’re eavesdropping on their private lives and thoughts.

With each day of the week ahead of the party, Kate uncovers a small, new piece of information about the German girl and what she meant to Geoff. This all happened a lifetime ago, but what does it mean for their marriage now?

The landscape is haunting. The soundtrack is atmospheric. The acting is mesmerising, particularly from Tom Courtenay as Geoff and Charlotte Rampling as Kate.

The final scene, where they’re dancing together at the party – to Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, as they did on their wedding day – will stay with me for a while. The look in Kate’s eyes says more than a thousand words ever could.




Movie review – Far From The Madding Crowd

Sadly, I’m old enough to remember the critically acclaimed 1967 film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd,. Directed by John Schlesinger, it  starred Julie Christie as Bathsheba Everdene, with Terence Stamp, Peter Finch and Alan Bates as her triumvirate of suitors.

Yesterday we watched the 2015 incarnation, directed by Thomas Vinterberg with a screenplay by David Nicholls (the author of Starter for TenOne Day and Us) and aimed squarely at a 21st century audience.

Carey Mulligan is perfectly cast as Bathsheba, a beautiful, feisty, and independent young woman, who inherits her uncle’s Wessex farming estate.

Her feminism is rare in Victorian times, and her natural exuberance attracts three very different men.

Quickly becoming another famous Belgian, Matthias Schoenaerts is Gabriel Oak, a hard-working sheep farmer who loses his own livelihood and ends up working for Bathsheba.

William Boldwood is a wealthy, 40 year-old bachelor neighbour. Played by Michael Sheen, Mr Boldwood is at first indifferent to Bathsheba, but quickly becomes infatuated with her after a prank is misconstrued.

Image result for far from the madding crowd 2014

And then there’s dashing Sergeant Troy, played by Tom Sturridge. The speed with which the hitherto defiantly single Bathsheba succumbs to the ultimately disastrous soldier is surprising, and perhaps a function of this adaptation condensing the plot a little too narrowly.

This love triangle is played out in the mesmerising Dorset landscape, with exquisite cinematography by  Charlotte Bruus Christensen.  The scene of a young, untrained sheepdog herding Gabriel’s flock over the cliff tops to thud onto the beach way below will linger long in the memory.

The story ends with a sort of stoic happiness, vividly conveying Thomas Hardy’s message about the value of long-term loyalty compared with brief passion.

A joyous way to spend a couple of hours….particularly if you like Dorset.

Theatre review – Persuasion


Review by Andrew Morris (for Essential Surrey)

The Yvonne Arnaud Mill Studio, Guildford until Saturday April 25

Jane Austen was an astute observer of early 19th century social customs. And she was arguably at her most perceptive in Persuasion, her last completed novel, published shortly after her death in 1817 at the tender age of 41.

In a whimsical but well observed adaptation by Hotbuckle Productions, 27 year-old Anne Elliot is intelligent, literary and sensitive.

And on the shelf.

Eight years earlier she had fallen in love with Frederick Wentworth, a dashing young naval officer. But she had been persuaded that Frederick was not a good enough match and, against her better judgement and natural instinct, severed the relationship.

But now the class tables have been deliciously turned.

Captain Wentworth returns imbued with honour and wealth, while Anne’s own profligate father has ensured the Elliot fortune is much diminished. The family estate Kellynch Hall is rented to Admiral Croft and his wife Sophia, Wentworth’s sister, while the vain and snobbish Elliot patriarch Sir Walter decamps to lodgings in fashionable Bath with his empty-headed eldest daughter, Elizabeth.

Frederick now ignores poor Anne, either through revenge or indifference.

A helter-skelter journey across the country follows before we find any answers. And on the way we encounter more match-seeking, fortune-hunting and a pivotal accident.

The brilliantly inventive company of just four actors somehow manages to portray the complete panoply of characters, effortlessly switching with ne’er a slip twixt costume and lip.

Hotbuckle founder and Persuasion adapter Adrian Preater plays Sir Walter perfectly, as a vain, preening, oleaginous buffoon, who may have squandered his family’s fortune but who remains a baronet. And class is all that matters, isn’t it? Moments later, Adrian becomes the mild, tweed-clad Charles, more interested in hunting than soothing his soppy wife’s brow. And then downcast, widowed poet Captain Benwick.

With a seamless change of accent, shawl or gait Clare Harlow is ditzy Mary, social climber Elizabeth or class-conscious Lady Russell, who turned Anne against Frederick all those years ago.

And Peter Randall is equally convincing whether playing rebuffed but still proud Captain Wentworth, devious cousin William Elliot or fawning family solicitor Mr Shepard.

The single constant is Emily Lockwood as Anne. With a mellifluous tone and deft gestures, she vividly conveys amusement at her superficial family, indifference to social niceties, and heart-rending regret that she was persuaded to reject the man she loved.

Ms Austen’s satirical rapier may best pierce the customs of her age, but her overriding message is permanent: be constant and be true to your own feelings.

The Mill Studio lends itself perfectly to this intimate production in which the chameleon-like actors are also the orchestra, set-movers and prop-creators. See it if you can.

Movie review – Suite Francaise

Another free preview screening, thanks to those nice people at Times+

Somehow everything tastes sweeter, feels better, looks sharper if it’s free. You feel like you’ve won a small victory in the middle of a long and challenging life, inevitably laden with more losses than wins. A bit like Millwall FC, if they were ever awarded a walk-over for someone playing an ineligible player against them.

So here we were on a Monday night at Guildford Odeon, along with a load of other grey-haired Times readers, spontaneously watching a movie for which we’d seen an enticing trailer just a couple of days earlier.

Gill had read the book, written by Irène Némirovsky, a few years ago. It’s an incomplete book, written in real time as the author, a Russian Jew, lived through the German occupation of France in the Second World War. It’s incomplete because she died in Auschwitz, and the manuscript only surfaced many decades later.

The movie must inevitably take a few liberties with the original text, in order to get it onto the silver screen….but Gill reckons the conversion has worked well.

It’s essentially a love story, but also makes some sharp observations about loyalty, betrayal, self-preservation and other very human emotions when the natural order of a small, rural community is put through a tumble-dryer.

A great cast tells the story well. Kristin Scott Thomas plays a buttoned-up French lady of a certain age to perfection.  The versatile Michelle Williams is her daughter-in-law, caught in a moral maze. And relative newcomer Matthias Schoenaerts is the reluctant German officer, a musician rather than a soldier and trapped between love and duty.

Poignant, romantic, sad and yet ultimately hopeful that not everyone is destroyed by war.

A nice escape on a Monday night. Especially as it was free.




Melbourne – life and love

Day 15 – Thursday, January 29

Two of the enduring passions of my long life have been sport and travel. I’ve fallen painfully out of love with some things and a few people, but those two addictions have remained remarkably constant.

To be in Melbourne today to see the Australian Open mens’ semi final between Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych  combines both sport and travel in an intoxicating alchemy. Walking from the city along the Yarra river, leaving the shiny skyscrapers behind and approaching one of the world’s greatest sporting arenas is a rare privilege.

Thanks to our Sportsnet package, we’ve got excellent seats about 12 rows from the front, on one corner of the court. We’re in position about half an hour before the 7:30 pm start, chatting to the elderly US couple next to us…he’s surprised her with a trip to Australia and to the Open, and then on to New Zealand, to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. Passion.

The Rod Laver Arena is gladiatorial. The retractable roof slides effortlessly closed as the appointed hour approaches, presumably to accentuate the drama through lighting and music…because as the players warm up, they open it up again to reveal the still bright Melbourne sunshine, and to let in the surprisingly lively and cool wind.

Andy starts the first set as though he doesn’t want to be there. Tomas is hitting the ball much more cleanly, and producing searing winners. Andy is fiddling with a dodgy left ankle, and then a right thigh or knee, casting anxious glances towards his entourage and struggling to stay in the set.

Slowly, alongside his renowned defensive qualities, his confidence and momentum seem to improve. But not enough to save the first set, which he does well to take to a tie-break.

But thereafter he’s in the ascendancy, taking the next two sets 6-0 and 6-3. He’s in control of more rallies, moving his opponent around the baseline like a marionette and his puppets. Berdych’s energy is being sapped.

As with all sporting occasions, it’s as much about the peripheral incidents, people and smells around you that create a compelling occasion.

The 4 Andy Murrays stand up during end changes to belt out eulogies to their man, clearly well rehearsed over a few beers in one of their Scottish living rooms during the dark days of winter. A few other Brits closer to us chug pint after pint, are less rehearsed and become more and more abusive. The corporate suits immediately behind us discuss telecoms deals. Seagulls inhabit the night sky and float around the open roof, illuminated like dancers in a ballet. The smell of an Asian noodle dish tickles the nostrils.

The 4th set is closer but Andy takes it 7-5 and is into his 4th AO final…having lost the other three. In the immediate on-court interview, he pays tribute to his female coach Amelie Mauresmo and hints at the tension in the first set being due to his ex-trainer now coaching Tomas.

A great night. A great sporting – and travel – occasion. A great result.

And the perfect conclusion to a day in which we had earlier dub beneath Melbourne’s skin, after the previous day’s circular orientation tour.

We had enjoyed a brilliant brunch at Sally’s Kitchen,  spontaneously bought tockets for Baz Luhrmann’s musical production of Strictly Ballroom on Sunday afternoon, admired the architecture of the Royal Exhibition and Melbourne Museum in Carlton Gardens, stood in Ned Kelly’s cell during the moving tour of Melbourne Gaol, whizzed through the free Bohemia exhibition at the Melbourne Library, and enjoyed sundowner beers on the remarkable Ponyfish Island in the middle of the Yarra.

And then enjoyed a satisfying pre-tennis tapas supper at La Citta in the dingy Degraves Laneway, off Flinders Street. Crumbed eggplant chips with chipotle mayonnaise. Pork & beef meatballs with Napoli sauce. Lamb shank arancini. Smoked confit duck with croutons and cournichons.

Travel. Sport. Food. Beer. Wine.

So many passions in one short day.

Movie review – Her

Wow, those actor types are good at, well, acting.

The same guy who was mesmerising as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, and victimised poor old Russell Crowe in Gladiator, is unrecognisable as a quiet writer in Her.

A bespectacled and mustachioed Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a master of words and technology who crafts romantic letters for others, while his own marriage disintegrates.

But he does find real love with his new computer operating system. Yes, he forms a deep relationship with the Artificially Intelligent Samantha, who caters to his every need and understands him in a way no physical woman can. Understandable perhaps when voiced by a throatily sexy Scarlett Johansson.

I won’t spoil the way the story develops, but Her is a perceptive allegory for our technologically driven lives, and wholly believable despite the outwardly far-fetched proposition. Well, almost.

Directed by Spike Jonze, with outstanding urban cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema and a brilliantly evocative soundtrack from Arcade Fire, this is a thought provoking film that will make you look at your computer with new eyes. And want to upgrade your operating system.

Book review – Us by David Nicholls

I feel like I’ve grown up with David Nicholls.

Starter for Ten, The Understudy and the global phenomenon One Day. All written in a similar style, full of wit, poignancy and offbeat characters, I wonder how autobiographical each one is….

Us is a bitter-sweet dissection of the relationship between Douglas – a structured scientist and traditional disciplinarian – and Connie, his wayward, beautiful and artistic wife.

After 20 years of marriage Connie announces that she’s probably leaving Douglas. But they agree to go ahead with their Grand Tour of Europe, probably the last family holiday with Albie, their stroppy and lost 17 year-old son.

The holiday doesn’t quite go to plan and Douglas ends up confronting some of his demons in a series of helter-skelter misadventures across Europe, few of which were on his written itinerary.

As always, the writer’s characterisation is brilliant. Douglas is maddeningly unable to cut Albie much slack, trying to impose a scientist’s logical thinking onto a confused teenager in search of anything but structure, at the same time as Albie wrestles with his own challenges

The Grand Tour mishaps are neatly interwoven with the history of Douglas and Connie’s relationship, and other incidents that give some understanding of the present father and son dynamic. If there is any dynamism in something that’s so broken?

I embraced Us in much the same way I described bookish immersion here.  And I’m already looking forward to the movie version of Us, anticipating who might play the main characters in this deftly woven story.

And please don’t make us wait too long for the next instalment of your literary life, Mr Nicholls……