Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Director: Mike Newell 3 stars

The small audience at the Everyman preview burst into applause at the end of the viewing and they showed their appreciation throughout with much laughter at all the right places. Aaah, there’s nothing like a cuddly rom-com to give you that feel-good experience. Reminder: Mike Newell directed Four Weddings and a Funeral.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.pngIt is 1946 and Juliet (Lily James) is an author who is contacted by a handsome Guernsey pig farmer Dawsey (Michiel Huisman) and decides to visit the island to interview its book group for a newspaper article. The group was a hastily invented ruse to fool the German occupiers but it has kept going after the war. Now Juliet finds that there is a mystery which she offers to solve with the help of her American GI boyfriend, Mark (Glen Powell).  So we get rom-com with the added bonus of a nice little detective story.

This is a film that will do well at the box office and we will see it offered innumerable times on TV. It will soon be available on Netflix. It is in the same genre as Their Finest, Darkest Hour, Swallows and Amazons, The Best Marigold Hotel, Harry Potter and Call the Midwife. It’s about that imaginary time when things were apparently simpler and people had hearts of gold beneath their gruff exteriors or else were properly evil. In this case there are the horrid Germans and the one Good German, the stoical Islanders, a token American who is nothing like as brilliantly fascinating as he thinks he is, a cuddly old geezer (Tom Courtenay) and an isn’t-she-comical hippy-dippy character who brews and drinks her own gin. Children are sweet and docile.

In the real life Channel Islands it is still difficult to talk about the German occupation. There is shame, guilt and painful confusion, not just about the occupation itself but about the way the aftermath was handled because sometimes this was done without understanding, compassion or mercy.  In real life it is obvious now that there were complex reasons why women had liaisons with German soldiers and why both men and women were collaborators.  In real life, children whose mothers disappear are traumatized and act out, they don’t smile politely, as in this film, for all the world as though nothing terrible has happened.  

In the universe portrayed by so many rom-coms there are no taxing moral dilemmas or deep hurts and no shades of grey in human behaviour. It would be a simpler world if you believed in the rules of rom-coms, for instance as here, that the boyfriend with the smaller eyes is always the one you should avoid. And that you are well rid of a man who makes off with the champagne after you have rejected him – clearly he was always a rotter.

As the film ploughed on, its superficiality began to irritate me and I started to notice the details that felt wrong. How did Juliet get all those hand knitted sweaters into her one suitcase? Where did her typewriter come from?  Why were British people from 1946 using present day Americanisms where children are ‘raised’, phones are ‘picked up’ and people say ‘right now’ instead of ‘at the moment’? Where did Juliet get her eyeliner and brown eyeshadow as I don’t think they had it in 1946? How come her American boyfriend was able to commission a US warplane to make his romantic dash to Guernsey? Did he steal it?

Can you, all in one film, successfully combine historical narrative with a gripping detective story with romantic drama?  I guess you can’t and for me this film doesn’t.

Never mind. The costumes are terrifically authentic (Charlotte Walter) and congratulations to the finder of such splendid interiors along with the production designer (James Merifield).  They have all done a fine job along with the distinguished cast, especially Penelope Wilton.  However, if you go hoping to see a lot of picturesque Guernsey landscape prepare to be disappointed as I have a suspicion that most of it was shot elsewhere.

The actual highlight of the evening for me was in the ads, a process that I normally avoid by arriving late. The new Lloyds Bank ad, The Running of the Horses 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=079qcLQkq1M is a stunning piece of art, directed by Sam Pilling. That sixty seconds lives on in my mind as conveying some kind of emotional truth, unlike the 124 minutes of the feature film itself which I will most likely have forgotten by the end of next week.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Another tired horror movie

Jenny gives Soderbergh's Unsane an excoriating 2 stars

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Back in the old days when I was at the BBC learning how to be a filmmaker, my department had a higher than usual percentage of women directors. We often amused each other by betting on how long it was on a shoot before the cameraman would comment that it was all very well having young women directors (clearly it wasn’t really and it was all a bit of a puzzle to them how on earth we had got to this giddy state of authority) but you could NEVER EVER have women cameramen (sic) could you? 

The reason was always the same. ‘A woman could never carry the camera up a 15-storey tower block where the lift had broken down, now could she? (Triumphant grin). True, the camera was heavy and it had to have its own butler in attendance, an assistant, male of course, who carried the spare magazines and the toolkit of screwdrivers and other bits of essential repair kit which  it needed a man to understand.

How bizarrely quaint that seems now when Steven Soderbergh has made an entire feature film on a camera which he can tuck into his breast pocket and where a screwdriver is unlikely to be helpful if it should suffer some kind of malfunction. 

It’s not the first time the iPhone 7 has been used this way but never so wholeheartedly or with such unabashed delight. See! You can do a sort of day-for-night on an iPhone! Look! You can do wide angle! Whether you like the resulting soft focus, flattened depth of field, lost details of people’s faces and heavily saturated colour is another matter, but hey! It’s 2018! Tech rules!

The film itself? I’m sure they must have had jolly good fun making it in about five minutes and on no budget, especially Claire Foy, released from her regal rictus as the Queen in two series of The Crown to become a sweary young American analyst terrified of a stalker (Joshua Leonard) and there is a nice little cameo part from Matt Damon as a security specialist.

The name of Claire Foy’s character puzzled me: surely no one is going to be called Soya Valentini  even if they happen to have a vegan mother? But no, it’s Sawyer and possibly this is Soderbergh’s first joke of many.  Casually making an appointment at a counselling facility in her lunch hour, Sawyer suddenly finds herself incarcerated first for a day and then for a week on the grounds that her protests are merely denial of her suicidal state and that her physical struggles - she a tiny, slim woman - with the tall, massively fat staff, are pure evidence that she is a danger to herself and others. Of course, as another inmate, Nate, (Jay Pharoah) comments sarcastically, it’s all an insurance scam. So far, so Cuckoo’s Nest; please come in Nurse Ratched and turn up the Gaslight. Is she or isn’t she crazy? Possibly there is an answer but the film is so full of yawning plot holes it’s impossible to be sure what we are meant to conclude.

In the end it all turns into yet another tired horror movie where helpless women are propositioned by their bosses, stalked, tricked, tortured, locked with an attacker into rooms that are supposedly safe, thrown into body bags, abducted, strangled, stabbed, murdered and buried in woods. It reminded me of nothing so much as the black and white B-movies that I adored and adored to mock as a teenager. Same cheap, notional sets, sketchy characters, wooden dialogue and pantomime villains. Maybe as a kid Soderbergh liked them too.

Perhaps this film was made before Weinstein and #MeToo? The agenda has changed and it’s changed for good but of course it takes Hollywood and maybe men in Hollywood an awful long time to catch up, as we have seen. This stuff looks as old fashioned in its views of women as those held by my cameramen buddies back in the seventies and no amount of crowing about the wonders of iPhones could disguise this for me.  

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Mother & daughter shine in Lady Bird

Joe gives Greta Gerwig's directorial debut 4 stars

Lady Bird is a slight but admirably delicate film. That it allowed me time to reflect while I watched it suggests that I was less than fully engaged. On the other hand, my reflections were all in its favour. It occurred to me that films about teenagers breaking free from parental restraints are not often so even-handedly compassionate, and convent schools are rarely allowed to appear so benign.

Image result for greta gerwig pictureThough she has a track record of directorial collaborations, this is the first film Greta Gerwig has directed by herself. And it’s a film in which a Gerwig-like role, somewhat reminiscent of Frances in Frances Ha, for example, is played by a younger actor, Saoirse Ronan. I was reminded of another comic auteur, Woody Allen, and it strikes me that the comparison is entirely in Gerwig’s favour. 

Though there are lines in this film that made me laugh out loud (which for some reason I don't often do in the cinema), emotional truth is never sacrificed for a gag. And whereas Allen clung on as juvenile lead for too long and later managed to induce talented actors, such as John Cusack and Kenneth Branagh, to become Allen-impersonators so that he could go on haunting his own films, Gerwig has allowed Ronan to make this part very much her own.

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The heart of the story is the relationship between Christine McPherson (Ronan), who wishes to be known as Lady Bird, and her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) who veers between tolerating and resisting her daughter’s whimsical posturing. Christine’s father Larry (Tracy Letts) is warm and emotionally present but struggles to provide for the family and has settled into a more passive role. It’s left to Marion to do the worrying and to berate her daughter when she seems to fall short of her potential. As a mother, Marion has obvious faults. Building self-esteem is not a priority. In one stand-off she asks Christine, in exasperation, if she has any idea how much it costs to keep her. Christine picks up a pen and file pad and demands to know exactly how much, challenging her mother to put a figure on it, so that she’ll later be able to write her a cheque after which they won’t have to see each other ever again. Marion’s response, that Christine will never be able to earn that kind of money, is a characteristic put-down.

Image result for laurie metcalf in lady bird imagesBut the mutual frustration expressed at such moments is the flip side of a powerful bond. The scene in which Marion helps Christine buy a dress from a charity shop for the school prom is moving because it’s multi-layered. Alongside her mother’s clumsiness, we see Christine’s emotional dependence, her openness to advice, for all her stubbornness, and the extent to which her quirky style is an accommodation with the financial reality. Both these parts are wonderfully acted.

The plot, such as it is, concerns Christine’s ambition to leave California and take the more expensive and academically challenging option of a college in New York, a city she has never visited. Meanwhile she must navigate the social complexities of high school life. Her relationships with boyfriends are only averagely disastrous and the mean girls only moderately mean. As for her teachers, I wish I had encountered nuns as gentle as these. And yet I experienced all this moderation as a positive quality, allowing space for the film to explore Christine’s real struggle, which is to find some distance from her mother without alienating her, and to shape a more stable sense of identity.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Phantom Thread haunted by Hitchcock

Jenny finds Anderson's film frivolous but worth 4 stars 

Paul Thomas Anderson's films have often been about struggles for control and their disastrous consequences, as in There Will Be Blood, or The Master. This one is no different except that the struggle is between the pettish, self-absorbed bully,  Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis)  and Alma, the young waitress half his age (Vicky Krieps) whom he picks up when temporarily running away from his life in London and perhaps also from his fierce sister, Cyril, an absolute star turn from Lesley Manville.  It is the 1950s and Reynolds makes showy frocks for rich middle aged women who need to display their wealth at society balls. He secretly despises his clients unless they are young, beautiful and royal. He lives with his sister in his Mayfair atelier where there has been a long line of young women to service his sexual needs. When, inevitably, they bore or irritate him, Cyril coolly sacks them. 

Image resultThis first act is easily the best part of the film. Day-Lewis’s luminous, handsome face is matched by the unaffected smiles of Alma who seems simultaneously plain and beautiful.  Day-Lewis cleverly gives Reynolds a too-careful way of speaking, hinting perhaps at someone whose social origins are more lowly than he likes to admit. I was caught up in the plot here, underestimating Alma, wanting to shout, ‘Don’t do it! He’s far too old for you!’ thinking that we were in for yet another film where the appalling behaviour of a man to a woman is excused on the grounds of his supposed ‘genius’. I should have been warned. Early on in their relationship she tells him confidently that if he thinks he’s engaged in a staring match (he is) she can outstare him – and she does.

Now it gets complicated. Is this film one long secret comedy homage to Hitchcock’s Rebecca? Possibly. Alma was the name of Hitchcock’s wife. The character’s name, Reynolds Woodcock – a joke maybe and a play on Hitchcock? Early on we see Reynolds carefully clipping away nostril and ear hair: his grooming must of course be perfect and there was sniggering all round in the audience when I saw it. Then there is his ambiguous sexuality, where he drawls the claim that is he a ‘confirmed bachelor’, echoing Laurence Olivier’s Max de Winter whose is-he-isn’t-he sexuality was lightly disguised in 1940 along with Hitch getting away with what now seem blatant references to the lesbianism of Mrs Danvers. Lesley Manville as Cyril - note, no effort made to feminize her name - is a shoe-in for Judith Anderson in Hitchcock’s film, same hairstyle, same dress, same scary frown.

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There is the same obsession with clothing and underwear and the same Gothic melodrama. The film also has echoes of Joseph Losey’s gripping 1963 classic The Servant where master and servant inexorably swop roles and in fact Day Lewis’s Woodcock has more than a passing resemblance to James Fox’s Tony.

This film is about co-dependence; it’s about male frailty and the inability of this particular man to love and be loved unless dominated.

It is about the malign influence of a controlling mother. Alma may be young, she may be ‘foreign’ (never explained, though Vicky Krieps is from Luxembourg) but she is definitely in charge.

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The film is glossy, as pernickety in its framing and beautiful close-ups as is its protagonist. Exterior shots are few and far between; instead you get a real sense of the narrowness of the Mayfair townhouse as the staff clop their way up the stone stairs along with the stifling snobbery of that world.

The performances are excellent, the music subtle. If this really is Day Lewis’s final performance, as he has claimed, then he will be a loss: no film actor currently working is as subtle or can convey so much in a single glance.

But in the end, I didn’t care about any of the characters; they all seemed equally preposterous. The claustrophobic silence and sticky atmosphere of the atelier, the hideousness of the dresses and the delusions of the women who wore them, the pointlessness of Reynolds Woodcocks’s work, the silliness of an ending which involves poisonous mushrooms – it all made me feel that the film itself was pointless and silly: too long, a little dull - and not a patch on the masterly melodrama of Rebecca or The Servant.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Brilliant prosthetics can't rescue Darkest Hour

3 stars for Joe Wright's stagy portrait of the great man

No subject is as much written about in organizational psychology as leadership. There are millions of words and thousands of books on it. So there’s Contingent Leadership, Situational Leadership, Accidental Leadership, Leader as Coach, Distributed Leadership – and hundreds more. The one type of leadership no one gives any time to now, except as an historical accident, is Great Man Leadership. The reason Great Man theory has fallen out of fashion is that it is so implausible: there are always innumerable people, men or women, great or otherwise, who contribute to decisions, many of which rely on luck and chance for determining whether it turns out to be the right decision or not. The film industry has yet to catch up with this. They are stuck on Great Men, perhaps because one man winning against enormous odds tends to make for a better story - and that’s the theme of Darkest Hour, set in May 1940 with the British Army stuck in Northern France and defeat by the Germans a real possibility.

There was a much better film lurking here, perhaps in its early stages of gestation. This might have been Churchill as a self-doubting show off, a performer, a bit of a bully, a little silly and childlike, with a dodgy political record, unwell and not popular with his party, yet far sighted enough to see what the right moral and military path would be. You can see the faint threads of this idea in the scene where Churchill (Gary Oldman) goes to his hat stand and asks it which hat he should wear that day, or the one where a cynical fellow politician from his own side points out how much Churchill likes the sound of his own voice. This version of the film would also have shown that in the terrifying circumstances of the time there was a real case for trying to make peace with the Germans.

Image resultThis would have been a more restrained and subtle film with a lot less ‘acting’. The acting style is National Theatre Shouty – in fact the whole thing is very stagy. I can imagine it being performed at the Olivier Theatre: the revolve with the picturesque sets (War Room, Clemmie’s boudoir, Cabinet Room, Buckingham Palace) and the audience playing the MPs in the House of Commons. And watching the film I had the feeling I’d seen it all before: all those other very good Churchill impersonations, all those other darkest hours.

Yet the film does not trust the audience to understand the background, so there’s far too much filmsplaining where people tell each other things they already know, eg ‘Lord Halifax, the Foreign Minister’ or ‘People didn’t like the fact that Churchill was on the wrong side during the Abdication’ and of course the Map Room, the maps with pins in to ‘explain’ Dunkirk. As ever, there are too-old-for-their-jobs generals who are clueless about what to do because it is the Great Man’s role to solve the military problem.

The screenplay constantly wants to boost the drama and its nadir is a laughable scene where it takes a Tube train six minutes to go one stop to Westminster (in real life this would take about a minute) and Winston, an aristo who has never used a bus or a Tube in his life, conducts an anachronistic focus group, with a careful selection of brave Londoners, on whether to surrender or not. Naturally they all chorus ‘Never!’

Oldman’s prosthetics are brilliantly convincing, though I wonder if the real life alcoholic, overweight 65-year-old depressive would actually have bounded upstairs and along corridors as he does in the film. There’s also a daft scene with the King where, apropos of nothing, the King asks Churchill how he got on with his parents. Oh dear, these chaps never talked about their parents except in stiff upper lip code.

I find Joe Wright a very mannered director. As soon as I start thinking ‘wonder what kind of track they laid for that shot?’ or ‘why did he chose a zoom there?’ I’m lost and there’s a lot of that. Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk seems to me to be a far superior film, covering almost exactly the same days, with very moving, straightforward directing, all the better for eschewing heroics and with a lot more dramatic tension, even though, as here, we already know the outcome. 

All the fringe things are terrific: production design spot on, make up authentic, costume ditto, supporting cast excellent, especially Ronald Pickup as the cancer-stricken Neville Chamberlain. The cinematography has a smoky look which feels absolutely right. But if the screenplay feels wrong, nothing can retrieve a film for me. 

Friday, 24 November 2017

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (but some films do)

Paul McGuigan’s film is based on a memoir of the same name by Peter Turner, an actor and writer from Liverpool, about his romance with the nineteen fifties movie star Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening). In the 1970s, Gloria was in her fifties, Peter (Jamie Bell) in his twenties. Her career is over but she is trying to revive it with theatre performances. Already ill, in 1981 she collapses in a Lancaster hotel and turns to Peter and his family for help.

For me this film bears all the marks of a phoney confection. How do you cover up the deficiencies of an inauthentic script? Focus on production design and wardrobe, in this case execrable wallpaper, nasty net curtains and horrible furniture to recreate the Turner household in Liverpool, plus hideous orange and brown clothing for the working class characters. 

Then the location: it’s going to be something overstated. It must have taken a scout a long time to find such dreary alleyways and streets, dimly lit of course. 

To pad out the film’s flimsy substance, there has to be a sub plot, here a comedy hearts-of-gold Liverpool Mammie played by Julie Walters with Kenneth Cranham, her silent husband, given nothing much to do but some unconvincing DIY business with a circuit board.

The biggest give-away of all is the simplistic characterisation.  There have been some touching, funny and intelligent films about what happens to famous actors, real life and fictional, as they age. The preoccupation with talent, good looks and fitness that blessed their heyday becomes a curse as they get older. These films range from Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard to Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, with a star turn from Michael Keaton as an absurd and hilarious Superman-figure desperate to reinvent himself. I also enjoyed the gaudy chutzpah of Behind the Candelabra, Steven Soderbergh’s film about the last ten years of Liberace’s life.

In the kind of memoir which is the basis of Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, the writer wants to elevate their own significance in the relationship, but the chances are that the star was of far more importance in the writer’s life than the writer was in the star’s. When turned into a film the result looks slight. For another example, see the similarly unimpressive My Week With Marilyn.

Phoniness becomes a particular risk when the film is a biopic. Here it is rare for a film to deal honestly with its subject: complexity is sacrificed for hagiography or else savage satire, exaggeration and melodrama. 

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The real Gloria Grahame did indeed refuse some treatment for breast cancer but she also had a great deal of plastic surgery, became obsessed by her thin upper lip which she padded with cotton wool, evidently a complication in scenes involving kissing where the co-star ended up with a mouthful of cotton wool too. 

Her fourth husband was also her stepson, a relationship that reportedly began when he was only thirteen. She battled her third husband for custody of their daughter. She had a breakdown and was treated with ECT.

All of this is a far cry from the bland, cutie-pie character that Anette Bening does her very talented and honest best to convey. As a result the film descends into schmaltz. The last twenty minutes is excruciatingly drawn out with the loveably eccentric Liverpool family in full cry and a ridiculous scene where Bening and Bell play out dialogue from Romeo and Juliet on the stage of an empty theatre. Oh please, let the woman die!

There is one scene which shows what the film might have been. The naïve Peter makes his first visit to LA. Over dinner at Gloria’s home, where her aim is to show off her handsome young lover to her mother (Vanessa Redgrave) and spiteful sister (Frances Barber), he learns something of what may lie behind the glamorous front. Here, the dialogue and acting are sharp, surprising and funny, but alas this was the only scene which woke me from torpor as the film sluggishly wound its way to its entirely predictable conclusion.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Well-meant but misleading

Jenny hardens her heart with only 2 stars for Breathe

I met my friend Bob at university. He had been unlucky enough to get polio as a child – the tail end of the epidemic just before universal vaccination banished this horrible illness in the UK. He was in a wheelchair. His way of managing the reactions of those around him was to refer to himself sardonically as Brave Bob. ‘Oh yes’, he’d say, ‘Brave Bob still has a working brain’, and woe betide anyone who patronized, asked intrusive questions, for instance about sex, what worked and what didn’t, or made comments intended to be tremendously encouraging about how amazing it was that he could manoeuvre his wheelchair in and out of lecture theatres. Bob already saw the attraction of the Supercrip to the world of able bodied people.
Image resultBreathe unfortunately follows the familiar Supercrip stereotype that we see in films about disability. The film, which is directed by Andy Serkis, is based on the real life of Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) and his wife Diana (Claire Foy). Robin contracts polio as a 28-year-old in Kenya, is permanently paralysed from the neck down, can only breathe thanks to a mechanical respirator and is given months to live. Diana springs him from hospital despite the dastardly opposition of his doctors and finds a friend, Teddy Hall (Hugh Bonneville) who can make him a wheelchair which includes the respirator. They entertain, they travel, Robin campaigns for disabled people and lives for another 36 years. Judging from his Wikipedia entry, the real life Robin was a thoroughly inspiring man see and this film is intended to commemorate his life and work, especially as the producer is his son Jonathan Cavendish.
The film will work for many people as a lovely weepie – I heard a lot of snivels from fellow audience members, but alas, I hardened my heart. Full disclosure: I lived with a severely disabled man until his death 7 years ago. He was in a wheelchair for the last five years of his life. He, too, mocked the Supercrip stereotype, refusing people’s pity. I promise you that living with disability is nothing like it is depicted in this film and I hated the way it fell into the easy stereotypes:

The disabled person is always a man.

The actor is slim, able-bodied and good looking. 

He uses a wheelchair because this is a visible symbol of disability that everyone can understand. 

The man is saintly, brave, uncomplaining and clever. 

The man needs the wisdom of a good woman to save him from a life of despair but she must sacrifice everything because her purpose in life is to serve him. 

The cost in money of disability must never be mentioned, for instance of equipment, adaptations to the home, special clothing, laundry, helpers. 

People who oppose the hero are creeps, jerks and bullies. 

The emotional costs to the rest of the family must never be mentioned. 

The disabled person ingeniously discovers ways of overcoming his physical handicaps through inventions usually involving string, bells, teeth and eye movements. 

Towards the end of the film the disabled person makes a rallying speech about prejudice. 

The disabled person must die in the film, often to prevent further exploitation of their loved ones.

Breathe falls into all of these clichés, with added heartswelling orchestral accompaniments in case we miss the point. The characters never age, except for some terrible prosthetics added to poor Andrew Garfield’s face for the film’s final sequences. A rosy glow permeates the gracious if slightly tatty home and its surrounding rural landscapes. Everyone smiles most of the time and Andrew Garfield does a lot of splendid acting with his eyebrows.

Diana appears to deal solo with Robin’s needs, but did she really? Did she manually evacuate his bowels and change the catheter? Did she dress him and feed him?  Did she do all the extra laundry? Did she, a slight woman, turn him, a heavy man, every few hours on her own and deal with the ugly threat of pressure sores every day? Did she service the respirator? Where did the money come from? How did she manage to do all of this and care for a small child? Did the child never resent the time and attention that his father necessarily absorbed?

No, I don’t think this would have been possible. There must be a good documentary to be made about the extraordinary life of Robin Cavendish which would salute his role in raising awareness and horizons for disabled people and which would not shy away from all the things most people really don’t want to know. We would all rather preserve our cosy fantasies, the most malign of which, perpetuated in every feature film as in this one, is that if disabled people try really really hard, they can overcome their handicaps.
This film is a touching tribute by a son to his father, but it is also a good argument for never being involved in a film where you are one of the real life characters.

My old friend Bob lived a distinguished life as an acerbic critic, writer and academic. His feisty wife, Marie, is nothing like the pastel-coloured character depicted by Claire Foy. In his way Bob was as much a pioneer as Robin Cavendish. You can read his Guardian obituary here