Notting Hill – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant, Rhys Ifans, Tim McInnery, Gina McKee, Emma Chambers and Hugh Bonneville Directed by Roger Michell Written by Richard Curtis Length: 124mins

Notting Hill, starring a phenomenal cast head up by Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, introduces us to William Thacker (Grant). He owns a relatively unsuccessful travel book shop in Notting Hill; divorced and living in his ex marital home with his wacky tenant he is seemingly content to just bumble through life. That is until Hollywood Actress Anna Scott walks into his bookshop and subsequently his life. What follows is a love story with ups and downs, laced with good humour and undeniable charm.

Notting Hill is somewhat of an archetypal love story, it’s a fairly basic formula but it satisfies the hopes and expectations of it’s audience. Richard Curtis’ script is full of meet cutes, moments, disappointment and hope whilst being skilfully dispersed with brilliantly witty humour. I found the array of characters a really interesting element in this film, it feels like Curtis has pulled out his favourite stereotypes, fleshed them out a bit and enjoyed creating a world that they could all wander in and out of. The different characters do work for the story and definitely help with the humour; in particular Rhys Ifans as Spike and Emma Chambers as Honey but it’s the inclusion of characters like Bernie (Bonneville), Bella (McKee) and Max (McInnery) that captured my attention. While considering the peripheral characters it’s easy to be distracted by the loud presence of Spike and the kookie quirks of Honey; but having contrasting characters that seem very normal with very normal lives and situations alerted me to something a little deeper that Curtis was bringing attention to.

The whole film is about us and them. The audience likely to relate to William; a normal guy. He works a ‘normal’ job, has to clear up after his ridiculous housemate and spends time with his friends. Our leading lady is this gorgeous, glamorous super star. We see this life that very few people actually understand the pressures of and it grabs our attention when the two are thrown together in this quirky little story. Honey’s birthday meal is an integral piece of the film, we see the majority of our characters volunteering what makes them the saddest act at the table all for the last brownie. As we jump around the table learning a bit more about each character, we see a group of people, sitting around a table as we all have, sharing vulnerable parts of their lives. Whether people notice it or not, Curtis pulls down the barrier between us and them. A lesson that we don’t know what is going on with other people and accepting that although the struggles are very different, that everyone faces them at some point. 

The soundtrack is something that stood out while watching this film for what must be the hundredth time. This time I became aware that the music gives a real running commentary of the emotion of our focal pair. The lyrics of each song explain everything that we’re watching and it is arguably a bit sloppy. It’s not necessarily a problem, but I can’t help but think that more subtle choice might allow the audience to experience the action for themselves rather than being steered to how they should be feeling with a blast of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’.

In his role as William Thacker we see Hugh Grant as his perfected ‘awkward, witty, romantic lead’ and the truth is that he’s just brilliant at that role. It’s no wonder we’ve seen him take on so many similar roles in his career. Simply, he’s one of very few people that could do that part justice. Roberts is just sensational. She really seems to shine in her role as Anna, each scene seems to reveal layers of her work which ties together during that famous moment where she’s “just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her”.

This movie is bright. It’s full of wit, intelligence and charm. It’s such an easy watch and if you haven’t seen it yet, I really recommend that you give it a go. It’s a classic feel good movie that oozes romance. Arguably one of the best movies ever made in the genre of romantic comedy, thanks to the incredible performances, flawless writing and wonderful direction.

Yesterday – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Joel Fry, Kate McKinnon and Ed Sheeran
Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Jack Barth and Richard Curtis
Length: 116mins

In Danny Boyle’s 2019 musical comedy Himesh Patel plays Jack, a very normal guy from Lowestoft with big dreams of making it as a singer-songwriter. On evenings and weekends he plays small gigs arranged by his biggest fan and make shift manager, Ellie (Lily James) who has believed in him since hearing his rendition of ‘Wonderwall’ when they were both still in school.But then one night, at the same moment that Jack loses consciousness due to a road accident, a gigantic electrical storm hits earth and, after a brief power cut, the unimaginable happened – The Beatles are erased from history. Jack realises that he is the only person with any memory of the band and that he is the only one who remembers the Beatles songs; thus begins the journey to see if he can pass them off as his own.

An ambitious storyline to say the least, but Curtis and Barth attacked their wonderfully kookie idea and managed to create something truly unique and uplifting. Himesh Patel steps confidently into his role as the classic Richard Curtis ‘lovably hopeless’ character, though some Brits might know Patel from his role in Eastenders, the fact that he was relatively unknown was one of the elements that attracted Danny Boyle to him during casting. Lily James is just as charming as ever, the likeable force that she brings into any of her projects just makes this film more well rounded. Her character is the most relatable, arguably the most ‘normal, in the story, surrounded by either heightened characters like Rocky or Jacks parents yet left on the sidelines for the big leap to stardom and keeping her feet firmly on the ground.

The way that they made this bizarre story work is through having the actors play it really straight, allowing the comedy to flow out of the train of ridiculous circumstances and not overly pushing the funny moments. Boyle really managed to create a world where Jack believes his plan will work, a situation where the audience empathises with the normality of the focal characters and find themselves rooting for their successes.

There was always going to be some slight concern when you hear that anyone other than The Beatles is performing their songs, but Patel brings a really nice balance of his own voice and interpretation of the stories being told through them with the familiarity of the famous music. The way the songs are woven into the story and paced throughout the film helps with the progression of the timeline. Danny Boyle has commented while being interviewed that Himesh Patel sang Yesterday in one of his auditions and was one of the few actors who managed to connect with the song on a level that made it not sound like karaoke.

A film made purely for entertainment and it so committed to it’s storyline is such a breath of fresh air. Don’t get me wrong I love a film with all sorts of underlying themes and questions but this film is just brilliantly likeable. It’s a real family film with a whole range of humour, jam packed with wonderful songs in amongst a fully unrealistic, yet entertaining story. There’s very little with which to find in fault Yesterday, it’s absolutely my go to feel good film.

The Equalizer – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz and David Harbour
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Written by Richard Wenk
Length: 132mins

Robert McCall (Washington) is a former special service commando who faked his own death in the hopes of living out a quiet life. Instead, he comes out of a self-imposed retirement to save a young girl (Moretz) and finds his desire for justice reawakened after coming face to face with members of a brutal Russian gang…

Antoine Fuqua does a brilliant job of telling the story – it doesn’t span over a great length of time yet a lot happens. I really appreciate how he manages to successfully illustrate Robert’s day to day experiences in just a few scenes without using an arty montage or other more suggestive techniques. He had a real confidence in Washington’s ability and you can see it translate to screen. What is fantastic is to watch a film that has a deep consideration of ‘character’ whilst also being able to pull off some amazing action sequences.

Denzel Washington is an absolute powerhouse, I don’t think anyone would argue that his skill is just phenomenal and it’s pretty much a given that he’ll be great in whatever role he undertakes. What is really interesting with the role of Robert is that they needed to cast someone who you can believe to be such a kindhearted, selfless individual who could be equally as convincing as a brutal, determined weapon – both in appearance and in build. Denzel was the perfect fit and it’s such a pleasure to watch him work, particularly in the first half of the film where he is interacting with the peripheral characters and taking situations in as they happen. Although all of the performances are strong in this film, Chloe Grace Moretz is also worth mentioning. Her part is not enormous but she manages to create a really likeable character who the audience empathises with; thus making Roberts reaction to her story much more acceptable to an audience who cares for her.

The film feels complete, which is quite refreshing. Though a sequel was released in 2018 I don’t believe this film was created with the intention of dragging the story and characters out. The story is wrapped up nicely and by the end of the story it leaves it’s audience with very few questions. Real credit to the writer, Richard Wenk, who creates a story where it’s a very natural start to the action – of course bits and pieces about the past come out throughout the film but there’s no confusion from the moment the film starts, right through the action to a solid ending.

Though the violence and, shall we say, ‘creative’ methods that Robert uses to dispatch the bad guys is pretty brutal, the film is only rated 15 so it gives you an indication of the intensity before you watch. If you can stomach a bit of violence I really recommend giving it a watch. It truly holds its own as and action/thriller and is a really brilliant watch with some stellar performances.

The Fugitive – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Sela Ward and Julianne Moore
Written by Jeb Stuart and David Twohy
Directed by Andrew Davis
Length: 130mins

When the wife of a loving surgeon (Ford) is killed, her husband is arrested and sent to death row. During a bus crash en route to prison he escapes and the game of cat and mouse begins. A police detective (Jones) determined to catch his fugitive, and the fugitive determined catch his wife’s murderer whilst clearing his name. This film was not predicted to carry the success that it did, it was even rumoured that the actors believed the film could have damaged their careers. But with the clear, brilliant vision of Andrew Davis at the helm, a potential box office flop, turned into a smash hit and highly accoladed movie that would be considered a true classic.

The Fugitive’s success relies significantly on how plausible the action feels; though not something that you would hear in the news every day it feels realistic that the husband of a murder victim would be seriously investigated and, dependent on evidence (or lack thereof) charged. Also the fact that his ‘escape’ wasn’t a spontaneous, highly skilled prison break, but more of a grief stricken man making the most of an opportunity and driven by injustice. It’s refreshing and interesting to see an action based thriller with focal characters who are more ordinary, intelligent and successful, but still normal. It really opens up the opportunity for the audience to empathise with the situation.

The brilliance of this movie is a combination of the performances, direction and the clever editing. Harrison Ford’s character, Dr Kimble, is so interesting. Most of his performance is with just a small amount dialogue, meaning the bulk of his action is so heavily reliant on the physical transformation and portrayal, Dr Kimble speaks through his actions. Tommy Lee Jones earned an Academy Award for his work as Samuel Gerard. He is just outstanding, the audience really gets to walk through the whole situation with Gerard and it’s a fascinating watch, to have the two sides of this chase just enhances the build in suspense. The relationship between the characters is enunciated by the brilliant editing team (who also achieved Oscar nominations), the chase scenes cut between the two characters and you find that there are parallels between the two characters, making it wonderfully symmetrical. Andrew Davis, who had previously worked with Tommy Lee Jones, managed to turn a plot that could have easily ended up boring and predictable into a canvas for the two leading actors to play and push their characters, with brilliant results.

After it’s unexpected but well deserved box office success, The Fugitive has gone on to be considered a front to back classic and is timeless in it’s brilliance. It’s an exciting experience full of really brilliant moments and is well worth a watch.

Sleeping With The Enemy – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Julia Roberts, Patrick Bergin, Kevin Anderson and Elizabeth Lawrence
Directed by Joseph Ruben
Written by Ronald Bass (screenplay) and Nancy Price (Novel)
Length: 99mins

Martin Burney (Bergin) is a successful man; a high earning job, respect, an impressive beach house and a beautiful young wife, Laura (Roberts). However, it doesn’t take long for this illusion to shatter. Although all of the above is true, the audience is soon introduced to his abusive tendencies and the driving force for the plot to come. Though frightened and manipulated by her controlling and violent husband Laura is determined to escape and start a new life far away without her husbands knowledge. Joseph Ruben entangles hope, suspense, romance and fear throughout the telling of this story led by a particularly strong cast.

With just over 90 minutes to tell the story I think they do a good job. Taking on a film that represents both psychological and physical abuse is not an easy task and Ruben does it well. The manipulative comments and physical battering are run parallel with extravagant gifts and kind words, a realistic representation of this kind of abuse. With a plot that see’s Laura run from her terrifying, lonely existence it allows the writer to implement hope into her life, the dream of a future that she longs for. Something that, despite the suspenseful nature and reappearance of the villain in this thriller, is important for an audience who might see elements of their own life being mirrored on the screen.

Having released in 1991, watching now must elicit a very different response to its original audience. Some of the more theatrical moments don’t settle quite as naturally with a generation that has experienced more ‘scary’ thrillers. Although Bergin creates an intimidating, cruel character in Martin Burney, his actions in the climactic moments of the film do present as slightly pushed and more for dramatic effect rather than realism. Julia Roberts brings the charm and skill that she does to all of her characters, the audience want her to succeed, not just be safe, but to move forward and be happy.

Some critics dismiss the entire film based upon it’s ‘believability’ in the moments leading to Martin finding his wife, and perhaps these moments could have been addressed differently had the film length been stretched and focusses switched. Generally I think this is a solid story that moves quickly whilst dealing with a tricky subject; undoubtably it’s Julia Roberts performance showing the layers of her character brilliantly that holds the audience throughout. Though the film has not aged terribly well; relying heavily on the emotional response of it’s audience, it’s one that I enjoy and will continue to watch every so often.

Crazy, Stupid, Love – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore and Kevin Bacon
Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Written by Dan Fogelman
Length: 118mins

In 2011 Glenn Ficarra and John Requa teamed up to create the three strand multi-generational romantic comedy ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’. The lighthearted story follows Cal (Carell) and Emily (Moore) as they negotiate issues in their marriage, serial ‘player’ Jacob (Gosling) as he meets his match in Hannah (Stone) as well as Cal and Emily’s son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo) as he falls in love with his babysitter who, in turn, has her sights on another…

While not a particularly deep or powerful plot, what holds the audiences attention is the mix of all of the storylines. Dan Fogelman created a story that brilliantly captures all these different characters; allowing them their own lives and issues while cleverly connecting them. The only element of the story that I found to be a bit ‘too much’ was that of Jessica – the baby sitter. Though Analeigh Tipton does a good job I find her character so uncomfortable to watch. This, of course, could be fully intentional; her character is an awkward teenager who makes questionable choices but for me it detracts slightly from the other elements of the plot and feels like an unnecessary push at some extra comedy.

It’s been proven that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are a fantastic pairing; brilliant chemistry and the ability to provide deep, moving moments while bouncing off each other. The same has to be said for their roles in this film which are enhanced by the directors willingness to allow the pair to improvise some of the warmest, most authentic moments of the film. Steve Carell also side steps from his usual goofy comedic style and settles into ‘socially awkward dad mode’; not drastically different but the result is a character that triggers the empathy of the audiences and is a wonderful opposite to Goslings character making their relationship in the film both hilarious and endearing.

One of the interesting elements in this film, and what makes it stand out from other romantic comedies, is the balance of the two genres. Although it stars some powerhouse women, it’s main focus is on the male characters which is unusual in itself for this sort of film. It pushes a smooth blend of modern comic genres with a somewhat unexpected undercurrent of more dark, difficult emotions – all while sincerely contemplating the idea of soul mates and true love vs the limits of romanticism which is typically avoided in most romantic storylines.

This is not a perfect film and yet I can’t help but love it, I would suggest it’s one of the most brilliantly formed romantic comedies. It appeals to more than just teenage girls and has a real feeling of authenticity, lightly touching on some very real issues that some couples may face alongside a good splash of humour. More than anything it’s just an entertaining watch and I would highly recommend it.

Finding Neverland – Review

Rating: PG
Cast: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Dustin Hoffman and Freddie Highmore
Directed by Marc Forster
Written by David Magee
Length: 106mins

Marc Forster’s ‘Finding Neverland’ follows the story of writer J.M Barrie (Depp) as he finds the inspiration for the characters that changed his life. Wrapped in moments of heightened joy, grief, frustration and imagination we find Barrie stuck in a rut as his latest play fails to impress an audience with whom Barrie struggles to relate as well as negotiating a cold, awkward relationship. A chance meeting with the Llewelyn Davies family; four young boys and their mother (Winslet) unshackles not only J.M Barrie’s creativity as a writer but also Marc Forster’s own visual ingenuity.

Depp’s performance as J.M Barrie is so uniquely his own. The script allows for emotional jumps between sobering realities of ‘adulthood’ and expectation contrasted with the jovial encounters with the Llewelyn Davies children. It keeps the film moving at a decent pace whilst allowing space for the slower moving moments. Kate Winslet is just as brilliant as Depp in her role, yet both leads are arguably upstaged by Freddie Highmore. At just 11 years of age when he played Peter Llewelyn Davies he gave such a raw, emotional performance that connects the whole story and allows the audience to see how a character like Peter Pan could have been inspired.

The combination of the quaint Victorian setting and Barrie’s wonderful imagination allows Forster to conjure up a world where fantasy leaks into the everyday as fleeting moments; be it a tinkling bell or a brandished hook, Forster’s merging of reality and imagination is what really makes the film stand out. There’s something liberating about imagination being encouraged in such a film, particularly as the film is not explicitly for children.

Although rated a PG the film explores loss and grief quite significantly, it’s a true credit to David Magee for incorporating how both children and adults might cope with such emotional trials whilst still enabling a younger audience to watch should their parents deem it appropriate. Any themes that could be considered slightly more adult are discreetly woven into the script, subject to the viewer choosing to consider the parts of the story that aren’t told in the film. I love that they keep the storyline relatively simple, they don’t throw big dramatic moments into the plot just for the sake of it. The filmmakers trust their story and their actors to tell it.

It is worth noting that this film is not a biography, it’s classified as a ‘historical fantasy drama’ based on the 1988 play “The Man Who Was Peter Pan” by Allan Knee. It attempts to tell how biographical events inspired Barrie’s 1904 stage play; namely the relationships between the playwright and his lost boys…

“You find a glimmer of happiness in this world, there’s always someone who wants to destroy it”

Do the Right Thing – Review

Rating: 18
Cast: Danny Aiello, Spike Lee, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn and John Torturro.
Directed by Spike Lee
Written by Spike Lee
Length: 120mins

Not only is Spike Lee one of the coolest filmmakers out there, he represents the start of a wider movement within black cinema being brought to the mainstream that still grows stronger by the day. In 1989, Lee directed, wrote, produced and starred in what many consider to be his masterpiece, ‘Do the Right Thing.’ Although we touched on this film earlier in the week on our ‘Black Lives Matter Cinema’ post, I feel there’s a lot more to talk about with this release. Set across a single day on the hottest point of the year, tensions rise on a street in Brooklyn as various events transpire that could build into something greater and of higher stakes.

One of Spike Lee’s greatest achievements within this film is his ability to give the location character. As all of the events transpire within a fairly small area, scenes seems to run into one another, with key characters crossing by in the background of shots, as well as audiences becoming familiar with certain sets and the characters that inhabit that space. As well as this, the way in which the heat of the setting is portrayed is also done excellently. Bright colours such as reds and oranges physically demonstrate this idea, whilst the dialogue between the characters also reinforces it. It’s only as the film progresses that we can possibly re-consider these obtrusively bold shades to instead represent the violence and anger that has built up within the oppressed communities living within the area, which is the greatest issue tackled by the film.

Although the film is very much a political and radical-minded piece of art, ‘Do the Right Thing’ also carries a great amount of comedy with it. The loud-mouthed and over-the-top Boston New York stereotypes played into by Spike Lee allow for some hilarious characters and scenes to be created. Furthermore, the way the different communities can interact with one another allows for some funny scenes, although they often hide another layer of contrasting cultural attitudes which can quickly evolve into hostile scenarios.

Although a fairly mainstream release, there are some great elements of more experimental filmmaking at play. Moments of anger within the narrative are displayed outright, with various characters from each community within the neighbourhood staring down the camera and reeling off as many race-related insults as they can. Through this, Spike Lee reflects the conflict onto the audience, interrogating you and making you appreciate the hatred that is carried in each word. As well as this, a ‘love and hate’ themed monologue delivered by Radio Raheem pays homage to Charles Laughton’s 1955 Christianity-based thriller, ‘The Night of the Hunter,’ and conjures up imagery of a deeply-rooted type of love-hate relationship that has been experienced by those of colour when living in America.

Lee’s writing truly encapsulates the idea that these characters have grown up together all within a few houses of one another. The interactions are often smooth and incorporate inside jokes that physically show the viewer who is familiar with who. I’m sure that in this regard Spike Lee is drawing from his own personal experience growing up in a Brooklyn neighbourhood himself. As a result of these intricate connections within the story, it only becomes even more heartbreaking when such relationships break down as a result of racial tension that divides the neighbourhood. As is all too often the case, the ignorance towards one another’s cultures is what fuels the fire, and the police’s involvement never helps either. What Spike Lee created in 1989 sadly echoes into our modern day society, and shows that nothing much has changed. Despite this solemn idea, this film shows that we must do more to more to progress past the racist values often upheld by those in power, so that another 30 years down the line the same cannot be said.

Spike Lee is one of the greatest directors working today, and ‘Do the Right Thing’ definitely stands as his masterpiece. His work carries so much ethical weight to them that they are all worth watching (except for his remake of Oldboy). I look forward to his upcoming release ‘Da 5 Bloods,’ this summer on Netflix.

Hot Fuzz – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman, Paddy Considine and Bill Bailey
Directed by Edgar Wright
Written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg
Length: 121mins

In 2004, British director Edgar Wright released his comedic homage to the zombie genre in the form of ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ a brilliant and clever film that utilised the stereotypical tropes of the genre to create a film that felt completely unique. This would be the start of a three-part series of films that would each take on their own respective genre in a comedic manner, and would feature a recurring all-star cast led by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Concluded in 2013, the so-called ‘Cornetto’ trilogy (named after the recurring appearance of the ice cream in each film, with three different flavours to match the three different genres) was rounded up by ‘Worlds End,’ a take on the world of sci-fi and aliens. However, I think that the strongest of the trilogy was made in 2007, when Wright turned his attention towards the action genre, and headed to Somerset to create his ode to the blockbusters of ‘Point Break’ and ‘Bad Boys 2.’

After over-successful London Constable Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is sent to enforce the law in the idyllic rural village of Sandford – hidden amongst the hundreds of other communities just like it – he begins to find that all is not what it seems, and after taking the Chief Inspector’s son PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) under his wing, Angel begins to believe that a series of grisly accidents may not be entirely so coincidental.

To say that Wright is thorough with details when it comes to designing his films would be an understatement. Within the script, the almost constant moments of humour are often accentuated by the smallest of details that may have alluded to future scenes in the earlier moments of the film. Not a line is wasted, and as a result, a moment of dialogue from the story’s beginning will only feature further along down the line. This extreme approach to script writing is what sets Wright and Pegg (who also co-wrote the script) apart from most, as their clever understanding of what adds humour to a scene is perfectly executed throughout the entire 121 minutes.

Wright isn’t only obsessive about recurring and subtle ideas in the script that may only be caught after repeat viewings, but also within the set and sound design. Moments such as Butterman’s peak of intrigue after Angel reveals that he’s been stabbed before is punctuated by a distant ‘ca-ching’ sound of a till opening somewhere within the pub, as well a burst of laughter from a pub-goer after Angel describes it as “the single most painful experience of his life,” are the kind of moments that could be easily mistaken for simple background noise, but are actually the work of meticulous sound design at the hands of a director who understands that if he’s creating a comedy, then he can use all areas of film form to add humour to a scene.

The fanatical use of noise doesn’t just stop at the sound design. Wright’s ideas towards musical accompaniment and the action of a scene are perhaps best displayed in his later work, ‘Baby Driver’ from 2017, where not a moment of action isn’t to the beat of a song, but ‘Hot Fuzz,’ still showcases some brilliant use of music. From Adam Ant’s ‘Goody Two Shoes’ accompanying the over-enthusiastic Angel in his police training, to Dire Strait’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ accompanying a scene of tragedy after a rendition of the titular play is performed. Being aware of the relationship between sound and action is what allows Edgar Wright to create moments that flow to a beat without the audience perhaps even realising.

Aside from the later action of the film, Wright perfectly captures the life of so many small villages dotted throughout the English countryside. From the only after work activity being the Pub, to the frequent reiteration of “everybody knows everybody round here,” anyone who’s spent time in such a place will know that ‘Hot Fuzz’ perfectly depicts the repetitious and slow lifestyle of any English village. Wright himself grew up in Wells, Somerset, where ‘Hot Fuzz’ was actually filmed, and was quoted as saying “I love it but I also want to trash it.”

‘Hot Fuzz’ is one of those films that you can stick on anytime, anywhere and with anyone, and not only laugh out loud, but get something new from it every time. Edgar Wright displays his talents excellently in this film and I look forward to the release of his new film, ‘Last Night in Soho,’ sometime in the near future.

Safe Haven – Review

Rating: 12a
Cast: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders and David Lyons
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom
Written by Dana Stevens, Gage Lansky (Screenplay) and Nicholas Sparks (Novel)
Length: 115mins

Safe Haven tells the story of a mysterious woman who turns up in a small town. Nobody knows who she is or where she came from as she sets about creating secluded life without significant human contact. Our leading character, Katie (Hough), is soon drawn to the appeal of ‘small town life’, including a handsome widower (Duhamel) and finds herself starting to build a life. From the first moments of the film it is clear that there is something in Katie’s past that she is running from which, of course, comes to light just as her happiness starts to fall into place. The plot is relatively interesting for a film of this standard; it’s enjoyable but not earth moving. It lacks challenge or lesson but serves the purpose of entertainment should you enjoy a romantic story.

Nicholas Sparks, known for his romance novels, has had several of his stories translated to film. The mass following of the romance novelist presents an expectation of grand gesture, love surpassing all else and films that are easy to watch but perhaps, somewhat repetitive. Having grown up watching and enjoying several of these films it didn’t surprise me that I enjoyed Safe Haven; though the basis of the film has many similarities to other Sparks movies. Though I could happily find myself watching and re-watching films based upon the novels of Nicholas Sparks I cant help but notice that they are lazily formulaic. They follow a very precise structure which makes them easy to recognise, but it is a formula that sells to the romanticised audiences rather than creates an authentic connection between character and audience.

Safe Haven carries a reminiscent feel to that of ‘Sleeping With The Enemy’, a film which expertly tells its story. It doesn’t quite achieve the same level of tension or authenticity, however it is perhaps a bridge between a younger audience starting to experience storylines of this nature to that of a slightly darker representation. It is difficult to mention a key moment of this film which pulls it from entertaining and mildly interesting through to a bit ridiculous; without a significant spoiler. The ending throws a completely unnecessary curveball which, for me, detracts from the films strengths.

I wouldn’t recommend this film as an essential watch, as previously stated it doesn’t carry any importance or particularly mind blowing filmmaking. It is however a pleasant enough film with a very particular target audience – if you have enjoyed other Nicholas Sparks film adaptations then theres a good chance that this will satisfy for an entertaining evening.