The Deep Blue Sea (2011)

“Interesting Love Story But Hard to Follow” 7/10

 

The Deep Blue Sea is a period romance focusing on Hester (Rachel Weisz), the wife of a judge who embarks on an affair with the reckless RAF pilot Freddie (Tom Hiddleston). However, overcome with a mixture of guilt and disappointment that her new life isn’t quite what she’d hoped, she makes a dramatic decision which has disastrous consequences for herself and her relationships.

This film has quite a poignant story – it focuses a lot on emotion and doubt which are highly relatable even outwith the situation of the story itself. The period setting gives it a somehow more romantic edge and it really is an interesting love story. You can’t help but understand the problems that Hester experiences with her troubled life, and the “grass is greener” feeling that draws her towards a seemingly more exciting life with Freddie. The story ebbs and flows in parallel with Hester’s feelings, and at times takes some dark turns. Despite the story being good, I felt really let down by the direction – the scenes constantly switch between present day and very recent flashbacks with little discerning detail as to which is which. I found myself lost at many points during the film, unable to work out where it was in the story and having to rely on the odd bit of choice dialogue that would reveal the time setting. This is sadly very off-putting and took away from the punch that the script would have had otherwise.

Despite the scene confusions, Weisz and Hiddleston offer a beautiful, if difficult, romance that is really set alive by the strengths of them as actors. Weisz is on top form with a powerful but vulnerable performance, and Hiddleston suits the role of the troubled romantic (his character in this reminded me a lot of his role in “Only Lovers Left Alive” (2014) in which he was incredible). There was also good performances from smaller characters, most notably Hester’s husband Sir William (Simon Russell Beale) who’s role was vulnerable and gentle, an opposite to the rival of his wife’s affections.

The Deep Blue Sea is quite a powerful and interesting love story, but sadly I felt that the possibility of this film being a great classic romance was tarnished somewhat by the lack of clarity in time shifts. Nevertheless, the story is good and it’s worth a watch for the excellent characters and script.

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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011)

“Uplifting Story But Slightly Unconvincing Character Relationships” 8/10

 

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen tells the uplifting story of fisheries expert Dr Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) who is approached by consultant Harriet (Emily Blunt) who persuades him to work on a project for a sheik (Amr Waked) who wants to introduce salmon fishing to the Yemen.  Initially the project seems impossible but over time Alfred and Harriet find themselves on a journey, taking a leap of faith to make it possible.

 

The story itself is humble and touching, uniting the two main characters (McGregor and Blunt) who find themselves a little lost in life, and reminds them that with a little faith, anything is possible – a message that features strongly throughout.  Despite its moralistic teachings, it manages to be surprisingly funny at the same time, mostly coming from Kristen Scott Thomas playing a no-nonsense government official.  Ewan McGregor really shone in this film, bringing his character’s flaws to the screen in a sweetly awkward fashion that was also bursting with relatability and honesty.  Emily Blunt offers a more easy-going and self-assured role, although there are moments of well-placed vulnerability too.  Despite these two strong performances I felt that sadly there wasn’t much chemistry between the characters, something about it didn’t have me convinced.  Perhaps it was the uncertain, tenuous relationships that they had with their partners (played by Rachael Stirling and Tom Mision respectively) that made it all seem so awkward and slightly forced.  Thankfully this doesn’t spoil your enjoyment of the story too much.  The setting is beautiful, some fantastic Scottish landscapes (something I really need to see more of having lived here most of my life) and from the Yemen too.

 

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is an uplifting and inspiring story that offers a touching reminder that anything is possible with just a little faith, something that few films provide.  For me, I felt that the strong characters were tarnished just a little by their less-than-convincing interactions.  Despite this, it’s still and enjoyably sweet feel-good film, definitely worth a watch.

The Artist (2011)

“A Beautifully Modern Classic Silent Movie” 10/10

 

The Artist tells the story of George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a silent film star who happens to bump into one of his fans, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), inspiring her to audition for a minor role as a dancer at the studio where he works.  However the world of film is changing, moving away from silent films into talking-pictures, and while Peppy rises to fame quickly George is set in his ways and refuses to believe that silent film is dead.

 

I have never seen a feature film in the silent movie style, and I loved this.  Black and white films always look classy and this one had a beautiful authentic 1920’s feel that completely disguised the fact that it is a modern film.  The musical score set the scenes perfectly, creating atmosphere to replace the words that would normally tell the story, which flowed wonderfully and was consistently entertaining.  Dujardin and Bejo brought their characters to life through charming (and not overdone to compensate for the lack of dialogue) acting and sweep you up in their heart-warming tale of forbidden romance.  There’s also an incredibly well-trained dog that adds to the overall sweet nature of the film.  The story is initially fairly simplistic but that really adds to the overall charm, and once the plot has been set up we see the complex nature of George’s life and how he struggles to cope in a changing world, something that no doubt many people can relate to.  Peppy on the other hand is embracing the new age and all of the opportunities coming her way, which again is very relatable, and the clash of these two character’s personalities adds the complexity to the plot.

 

The Artist is classic and beautifully well-done, with highly relatable characters and an authentic silent movie styling that is captivating and rare nowadays.  It’s a heart-warming and romantic story guaranteed to make you smile (and a little nostalgic), I highly recommend it!

Midnight in Paris (2011)

“A Beautifully Restless Look at the Human Condition” 10/10

Midnight in Paris tells a beautiful story of restlessness and creativity in life, through the eyes of writer Gil (Owen Wilson) – Bored of current life, Gil finds himself captured by nostalgia on a trip to Paris with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her family – and every night at midnight he finds himself strangely visiting 1920’s Paris.

Set against the romantic backdrop of Paris, the film is visually stunning: Paris itself is a wonder both on screen and in real life and the film manages to capture its natural beauty perfectly without being too cliché. The clash between modern day France and the 20’s setting that Gil visits is wonderful and has a real atmosphere of opportunity and promise, the very things that draw him into the midnight “world” in the first place. Wilson is charming as the lost writer, a refreshing and pensive difference from McAdam’s character who jars against his creative nature, drawing a deeper void between their relationship as their time in Paris progresses. Contrast is used to perfection in this in every way. Wilson’s character meets many literary greats on his midnight journey who help him write his first novel: anyone who’s familiar with the works of writers such as F.Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) and Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll) will enjoy the many literary references throughout their conversations with Gil.

What really drew me in was the story and its raw examination of the human condition, which in itself is a fascinating topic. It looks at those things that are inherent in each and every person: in this context, curiosity, restlessness, and desire. It doesn’t try to sugar-coat it – Gil is unhappy with life and he doesn’t make any attempt to prevent himself from going in search of a new one (albeit in the past). That’s what makes this film so enjoyable, the relatability of the desire for something better – “the grass is always greener” – and the restlessness that we feel when we’re searching for that something better.

Midnight in Paris is beautiful: the story is captivating and keeps you thinking long after it’s finished. Few films manage such an honest look at the restless nature of humans, let alone done in such an intriguing style as this. Prepare to have your curiosity captured by creativity and the promise of opportunity: it may just make you feel like a midnight stroll.

Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

“Artistic, Romantic Escapism” 10/10

Only Lovers Left Alive is one of the most breath-taking films I have ever seen.  As a fan of the more artistically styled film I was captivated throughout.  The entire film is quiet and dark with an eerie feeling of timelessness that matches the souls as old as time itself, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton).  The film centres around their eternal love, highlighting the modern world through the light, easy-going spirit of Eve and the tortured romantic Adam.  Despite being set in the modern day it is completely unlike vampire films of recent times, presenting a visually beautiful story of true romance.

Artistic is the epicentre of this film.  It is entirely set at night so it has a sleepy, soft half-light, in the empty, mysterious streets of Detroit and Tangier.  The script has a minimal feel, giving the impression that every word is important, and there are some great moments of dark comedy scattered throughout, mixed with cultural and literary references and philosophical observations.  Everything about it is slow and measured and perfected, even down to the synchronised movements of Adam and Eve.  The acting is stunning, with a particularly beautiful performance from Tom Hiddleston, who carries the role of the suicidal vampire who has grown tired of the disrepairs of the world with a darkly sexy air.  Tilda Swinton provided a light to Hiddleston’s dark, offering a rescue at the darkest of moments.  There was yet more contrast with Eve’s wild and unpredictable younger sister (Mia Wasikowska) and the wise, worldly Marlowe (John Hurt).  The clash of characters adds to the charm of the story and the style.

The film is slow-paced but contrary to other opinions I didn’t feel that it dragged on in any way.  It presents a lot of truths about current society which really made me think.  Naturally, it remains true to some vampire film stereotypes: dark, sexy and romantic.  If you’re a Tom Hiddleston fan in particular I recommend this, his portrayal of such a flawed character is simply stunning.  However even if you’re impartial, I would highly recommend this film, everything about it is breath-taking and gorgeous.  It achieves artistic without clouding the message of the film and draws you in to its perfect eternity and escapism.